The number of pirate attacks in the West African waters may double next year if the sub-regional governments fail to protect off-shore assets.
Already, there have been over 360 attacks on merchant shipping this year and without action by West African governments this could rise to over 700 incidents in 2014.
Speaking at Africa’s largest maritime security event, Maritime & Coastal Security Africa in Cape Town, South Africa recently, Paramount Group, Africa’s largest privately owned defence and aerospace business said the region could see an average of two attacks every day of the year.
Chief Executive Officer, Paramount Naval Systems, James Fisher, said piracy threatens more than just oil and gas assets, criminal gangs at sea were responsible for drug trafficking, arms smuggling, dumping of toxic waste, illegal bunkering and illegal fishing. According to him, attacks on shipping in the Gulf of Guinea have become the greatest threat to merchant shipping in Africa, surpassing attacks off Somalia in 2012.
“Currently there is an average of one attack per day on ships in the Gulf of Guinea and the trend is only worsening,” he added.
Fisher disclosed this in a presentation on Multi-role Naval Vessels, as part of the fight against piracy in West Africa.
The event had in attendance Rear Admiral Emmanuel Ogbor, Chief of Policy and Plans, Nigerian Navy, who highlighted developments in West African Navies’ response to piracy threats.
“Other problems caused by the profits from piracy help finance criminal activities such as terrorism and human trafficking and have a significant human and financial cost.
“As stronger counter-piracy measures have developed in East Africa, criminal organisations have come to see coastal assets in West Africa as soft targets.
“The result is that the waters of the Gulf of Guinea are now the most dangerous in Africa for merchant shipping. West African nations are rapidly developing their oil and gas infrastructure to capitalise on existing assets and exploit new offshore discoveries.
“These assets can serve as the driver of long-term economic development in these countries, boosting industry, creating thousands of jobs and bringing in billions of dollars of foreign investment. Unless it is tackled quickly and effectively, piracy could do serious damage to Nigeria’s oil and gas industry, slowing development for years to come.
“The solution is not to seek international help to solve these African problems, but to build African solutions to them. The development of a strong African shipbuilding industry means it is possible for African nations to find African solutions to the threat of piracy,” he added.
He disclosed that in response to growing demand from sovereign governments across Africa and the developing world, Paramount Naval Systems was developing a fleet of multi-role patrol vessels.
“The speed and flexibility of Paramount’s ships mean they are ideal for a wide range of operations in coastal waters to prevent illegal activity and protect assets and territory.
“To protect national resources, it’s essential to invest in flexible and modern maritime resources to patrol coastal waters and effectively counter piracy.”