According to a regional expert from a university in Cameroon, the piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is a big problem– a $2 billion dollar problem, to be exact.
Professor Joseph Vincent Ntuda Ebode, of Yaounde II recently spoke at an international symposium held to discuss piracy. The reason, according to him, is that because piracy causes ships to reduce their calls to West African ports, the countries suffer greatly from this loss of traffic.
Some of the smaller countries in the region such as Benin, rely heavily on maritime industry. Port activities in Benin contribute to roughly 70 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product, and piracy has caused a huge drop in their maritime profits.
Nigeria, even though it is the region’s largest oil producer, churning out 2 million barrels per day, is suffering– there was a 7 per cent drop in oil revenue largely due to piracy.
Because the risk of smash and grab attacks that leave tankers bone-dry, companies are forced to pay higher insurance premiums if they’re travelling in the region, which discourages their visit in the first place.
The issue stems from the inability of these countries to control their territorial waters. Unlike piracy in East Africa, these attacks do not happen in international waters where task-forces like EUNAVFOR or NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield can protect vessels. Because the off-shore rigs are not very far our at sea, it falls to the national navies to thwart the pirates.
The Niger River Delta in particular is home to intricate and established organized crime rings, who are constantly threatening political stability and always stealing oil. As the issue gets worse, non-regional militaries are sure to make an appearance.
The United States has already signed agreements with Cameroon, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, which should result in an eventual presence of U.S. military in the region. As piracy in East Africa fades, it remains strong in West Africa, and is of an entirely different dynamic. Yet the region is vital, at it produces 40 per cent of the oil consumed in Europe and 30 per cent of the oil consumed in the United States.