Friday, 11 November 2011

Growing rate of piracy in west africa

  Perhaps inspired by the success of their Somalian counterparts, the West African coastline seems to be the honey pot of pirate activities. This year alone, the gulf of guinea-a stretch of West Africa's coastline spanning more than a dozen countries, including Angola-has witnessed more than 30 pirate attacks. The worst hit are the coasts of Ghana, Ivory coast Benin and Nigeria, as pirates adopting more organized tactics aim for vessels supplying oil, cocoa and metals to hungry world markets. Unlike their East African counterparts, the pirates operating along the West African coastline are more daring in their operations. They attack ships that are at anchor or close to shore, a contrast in the methodology applied by Somali pirates who attack ships hundreds of miles from the shore. Also, whilst the ship is hijacked and its cabin crew are kept hostage for ransom demands in Somalian piracy, the West African version is more of a hit-and-run tactic. Their
  interest is in the cargo and not the vessel. The surge in pirate activities in the West African region is beginning to draw a lot of media attention. Just recently, the International Maritime Bureau-IMB- highlighted the risk of shipping to tema, Ghana and the Lagos and bonny areas of Nigeria. This has prompted international insurers to rank the coastline in the same risk category as Somalia. This is pernicious to a region already battling with drug smuggling, human trafficking and militant attacks. The obvious consequence is its damaging impact on security, trade and economic activities within the region and principal partners in Americas, Asia and Europe. Perhaps more worrisome is allegations that security agents in the region collaborate with the pirates to carry out their nefarious activities. Political instability in Nigeria and ivory coast, and a weak navy in Benin have provided an ample environment for pirates to carry out their activities uninhibited.
With massive reserves of natural resources, the gulf of guinea plays a pivotal role in international trade. There is an urgent need for countries in the region to take steps at securing their maritime borders and territories. One of such measures is the establishment of a regional navy. Though the french and the U.S navy are offering assistance, this is more of an action to protect their interests. African governments should be wary that these incidences of piracy would be used as a reference point in arguments supporting the establishment of a foreign military base in Africa.

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