Nigeria, the continent’s leading economic power, decided to take anti piracy action in the Gulf of Guinea, one of the world’s most dangerous waters.
It is only a month since Nigeria armed itself heavily to conduct anti piracy action. It is an investment of $200 million on which the country would like to get paid back, by asking to be taken off the red list of countries with the most dangerous maritime waters.
Strong pressure from shipowners and insurance companies
Since the beginning of 2021, several shipowners and insurance companies have been lobbying on the international scene to call for a change of heart to curb what has become the epicentre of global piracy. With a record increase of 20% in 2020, pirates have moved away from cargo theft to the more profitable business of kidnapping crews for ransom. These methods are alarming to powerless shipowners, especially as 80% of these acts of piracy are carried out with weapons. 130 crew members have been kidnapped in the Gulf of Guinea compared to 135 worldwide.
On 17 May, 234 companies and shipowners called for an international coalition to secure the 5,700 km of the coastline (from Senegal to Angola) and its 20,000 ships in transit each year. The objective? The assistance of foreign (i.e. non-regional) navies to really apply international law and anti-piracy laws.
New anti-piracy weaponry
To deal with this, Nigeria has equipped itself with no less than 16 fast interception vessels and three helicopters, deployed in its Exclusive economic Zone. In addition, on land, there is a special trained force of 600 men, 16 armoured vehicles for coastal patrols, two special mission ships, two aircraft for surveillance, and four drones.
According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), the area is the most dangerous in the world, accounting for 95% of the world’s maritime kidnappings.
As reported by ECOFIN Agency, the Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, declares the anti-piracy forces deployment “became evident within the framework of the Gulf of Guinea maritime collaboration recently established by Nigeria and the Yaoundé Interregional Coordination Centre through the facilitation of the joint industry-state task force to combat maritime security in the region”.
Efforts still uncertain
However, despite its efforts, Nigeria did not succeed in convincing insurers on 18 June to remove itself from the red list of countries with the riskiest maritime waters. The expected removal of this list, which allows insurers to charge higher insurance premiums to cover ships transiting through Nigerian waters, “will not happen for the time being,” replied the Lloyd’s Market Association, which groups insurance companies.
It will probably take several years before any significant results are achieved to convince the international scene and probably rely on the support of the American and French navies, in particular, for some time to come.