Piracy surging off West Africa, Angola ready to do something about it

0
418

Angola is looking for ways to fight a surge in piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, the Great Lakes region and other areas along its coast.

Secretary of State for the External Relations Esmeralda Mendonca said the growing maritime crime problem is endangering the region from a national, international and regional point of view.

Mendonca wants more government funding to fight piracy and terrorism and stressed that if the member states of the region have concerted actions to tackle maritime piracy, they will contribute to the security and development of the region.

“It is in this perspective that Angola, as the headquarters of the Gulf of Guinea in Luanda, attaches great importance to this organization, as the maritime spaces have to be controlled.”

Any effort to reduce piracy in the region will certainly be appreciated by the world’s major shipping companies, who collectively, urge West African nations to do more to secure the waters.

More than 20,000 vessels use the Gulf of Guinea every year. Fringed by an almost 4,000-mile-long shoreline that stretches from Senegal to Angola, it serves as the main thoroughfare for crude oil exports and imports of refined fuel and other goods. Its size and the high number of ships in the area present a challenge for under-resourced governments that have to police the area.

The International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre says attacks on vessels globally jumped 20% last year to 195, with 135 crew kidnapped. The Gulf of Guinea accounted for 95% of hostages taken in 22 separate instances, and all three of the hijackings that occurred, the agency said.

The attacks have pushed up insurance and other costs for shippers operating off West Africa, with some resorting to hiring escort vessels manned by armed navy personnel. A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S, which transports about 15% of the globe’s seaborne freight, said decisive action needs to be taken.

“It is unacceptable in this day and age that seafarers cannot perform their jobs of ensuring a vital supply chain for this region without having to worry about the risk of piracy,” said Aslak Ross, head of marine standards at Copenhagen-based Maersk. “The risk has reached a level where effective military capacity needs to be deployed.”

Many shipowners favor a more muscular international effort modeled on the military response to hijackings offshore Somalia, which was the global epicenter of piracy from about 2001 to 2012. Armed guards and warships dispatched by the European Union, NATO and a U.S.-led task force to protect vessels traveling through the Suez Canal, one of the world’s busiest trade routes linking Europe to Asia, helped bring the problem under control.

The number of violent attacks in the Gulf of Guinea has remained fairly consistent over the past decade, but abductions of more than 10 people have become increasingly commonplace, said Dirk Siebels, senior analyst at Denmark-based Risk Intelligence.

The pirates are increasingly operating deeper out to sea, with kidnappings on average taking place 60 nautical miles offshore in 2020, according to the IMB. The furthest out took place in mid-July, when eight machine-gun wielding pirates boarded a chemical tanker off Nigeria’s coast and seized 13 crew members before fleeing. Only unqualified seamen remained on the Curacao Trader, which was left adrift 195 nautical miles from the coast. The crew were freed the following month.

“The perpetrators of such incidents are perfectly aware there is almost no risk of being caught,” said Munro Anderson, a partner at London-based maritime security firm Dryad Global. “That is precisely the kind of incident an international naval coalition could mitigate.”

 

Story compiled with assistance from Bloomberg and Xinhua News Agency

Leave a Reply