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Africa is bored to pirates

18.09.2013 16:14

Valentin Kryukov, a political commentator

An international conference with the participation of chiefs of staff of the West African Navy and representatives of the world's largest shipping companies, which took place last week in the economic capital of Nigeria, the city of Lagos was dedicated to ensuring the safety of maritime navigation in the waters of the Gulf of Guinea. The forum discussed the possibility of opposition to the growing threat to maritime trade and economic development of the region and the continent in whole from criminal elements, primarily pirates.

The Gulf of Guinea in recent years has become one of the most dangerous areas of the world for navigation. Black filibusters act boldly and with perfect impunity. More often than not, they board tankers, pump oil over to their vessels, and then sell it at the black market which gives them a quick and high return. No one guards the merchant ships in the Gulf. As a rule, the pirates attack in the territorial waters of one country and hide near the coast of another country. According to the International Maritime Bureau, in 2012, in the waters of the Gulf of Guinea 58 ships were attacked. Almost half of pirate attacks fall on the inland waters of Nigeria.

Attacks on ships were also recorded off the coast of neighboring countries - Cameroon, Benin, Cote d'Ivoire. Favorable conditions for the attacks of pirates are the absence of peace in the region and the high cost of oil in the world market. Meanwhile, from coastal countries to North America and Europe every day more than 3 million barrels of oil are supplied.

As noted at the conference by the Chief of Naval Staff of the Nigerian Navy, Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba, "the pirates have become a real threat to Africa's maritime trade and economic progress. Robbery of oil and manufactured products directly affects not only the coastal but also the inland states." Over the past 10 years because of stealing the oil by sea bandits, the countries in the region have lost $100 billion. This type of crime is accompanied by hostage taking, damage to the means of oil delivery to consumers and its stealing, and the abuse of environment. The military believe that criminal groups exploit the fact that the regional countries "have failed so far to establish effective cooperation at the tactical and operational levels."

The meeting in Lagos aimed to elaborate concrete steps in ensuring the safety of maritime navigation in the Gulf of Guinea, the general strategy of which was determined as early as June in the capital of Cameroon at the summit of the Economic Community Of West African States, the Economic Community of Central African States and the Commission of the Gulf of Guinea with the participation of 25 heads of state. It was stated at the summit that African countries can no longer allow their natural resources to be plundered with impunity, and that ?the time has come to take tough moves against sea pirates.?

The outcome of the forum in Lagos was the decision to lay stress on the coordination of operational activities of naval forces in the regional countries to combat piracy, to form a sort of rapid deployment force. This tactic has been used off the coast of East Africa. The presence of international naval forces there, including the Russian warships, led to a significant reduction in cases of robbery and piracy. If in 2011, there were recorded 129 pirate attacks on merchant ships there, then in 2012 their number dropped off to 19. However, despite some success in combating pirate attacks, the threat to navigation off the coast of Somalia remains high.

The African countries' urge to toughen measures against piracy in the Gulf of Guinea was supported by the European Union too. Chairman of the European Union Military Committee Working Group, Vice-Admiral Jurgen Ehle said that by the end of the year, the EU will have prepared its strategy of security measures in the Gulf of Guinea. "This would be unfair not to recognize that we are all equally interested in the effective protection of energy sources," he said.

Summing up the conference, Nigeria?s Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke assessed the situation in the Gulf of Guinea with an increasing number of attacks on ships and kidnapping, as "unacceptable". Over the first six months alone during this year, 55 attacks on tankers have been recorded. This adversely affects the regional countries' income from oil and gas, and in general the world economy. The Minister stressed that counterpiracy and illegal smuggling of oil will take a long time and multilateral joint actions of all the regional states and their trade partners.

In 15 countries whose coasts are washed by the waters of the Gulf of Guinea, in 2012, more than 5.4 million barrels of oil per day were produced, and the main flow of exports goes to the European Union and the U.S. 47% and 34% of deliveries are the share of Nigeria and Angola, the largest oil producer in Africa.