Maritime piracy off the West African coast increased by nearly 100 percent between 2016 and 2017 a new report has revealed.
The report, which was published Tuesday by the Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) project, says armed attacks on ships in West African waters nearly doubled in 2016, with pirates increasingly focused on kidnapping crews for ransom off Nigeria’s coast.
The OBP report says cargo theft — once the main focus of piracy in the region — has given way to an increase in kidnappings, with 95 attacks recorded on West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea in 2016; there were 54 attacks the previous year. In addition, there were 96 crew members taken hostage compared to 44 in 2015.
A February attack on an oil tanker off the coast of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, was the only successful hijacking recorded off the West African coast in all of 2016.
Maisie Pigeon, one of the lead authors of the OBP report, says, “One of the reasons we are observing increased incidents of kidnap for ransom is that the model offers financial gain with less risk to the perpetrators than hijacking for cargo theft.”
The report adds, “[Nigeria] experienced a spike in attacks, including 18 kidnap-for-ransom attacks between March and May. Analysts suggest that this pattern is closely linked to militant attacks against the oil and gas infrastructure in the Niger Delta.”
The OBP estimates the economic loss due to the activities of pirates around West Africa in 2016 alone to be at nearly $794 million.
West Africa emerged as the world’s epicenter for piracy in recent years after increased patrolling by international navies ramped up onboard security to suppress hijackings off the Horn of Africa.
The OBP report, however, discloses that due to huge costs, counter-piracy operations (armed private guards and navy patrols) have reduced along the Indian ocean in recent times prompting a resurgence in the activities of pirates.
“Pirate networks in Somalia still possess the intent and capability to commit acts of piracy,” the report says.
The OBP project is funded by the One Earth Future Foundation. The project encourages cooperation among stakeholders in the shipping and international maritime community to tackle the problem of piracy.