Gulf of Guinea: Pirates switching from kidnapping to oil theft 

…As Nigeria loses over $2bn to oil bunkering in 8 months

Africa’s Gulf of Guinea is witnessing a shift in the dynamics of piracy, with criminal networks moving away from targeting commercial ships to oil bunkering, theft and illegal fishing, a report presented to the UN Security Council (UNSC) has revealed.

The report also revealed that the widespread cases of thefts have resulted in Nigeria losing more than $2 billion during the first eight months of this year.

According to a report released by Maritime Executive yesterday, the UN Security Council has been informed that despite a significant drop in piracy incidents in the Gulf of Guinea in recent times, stronger action is still required to address the changing dynamics of piracy in the vast waters.

The report indicated that criminal groups operating along the Gulf of Guinea have not gone away, but have transitioned to other activities.

An Assistant Secretary-General in the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs in the UN, Martha Pobee, who presented the Secretary-General’s latest report on piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, warned that the shifting dynamics would require greater response not only from countries in the region but also from international partners.

Recall that some pirate groups are adapting to changing dynamics both at sea and in coastal areas. In this respect, the recent decrease in instances of piracy may in part be attributable to the shift by criminal networks to other forms of maritime and riverine crimes, such as oil bunkering and theft, which they likely view as both less risky and more profitable,” she said.

Conversely, Nigeria has witnessed an unprecedented surge in large scale cases of oil theft and pipeline vandalism, whose impacts have been crippling the country’s oil industry, with production in the months of August and September plummeting below one million barrels per day (bpd), the lowest levels in decades.

However, an investigation by the Nigerian Senate reckons that the widespread cases of thefts have resulted in Nigeria losing more than $2 billion during the first eight months of this year.

Once a hotspot of maritime piracy, the Gulf of Guinea has recorded a drastic decline in incidents due to concerted efforts by national authorities, supported by regional and international partners, both on land and at sea. Actions such as increased patrols, deployment of naval assets, enhanced coordination as well as convictions have served as deterrents to criminal networks.

Part of recent measures to wage a coordinated war against the piracy networks include the signing of an agreement to establish a Multi-national Maritime Coordination Centre for a zone covering Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Senegal, and conducting a maritime exercise involving 17 of the 19 countries bordering the Gulf of Guinea.

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