Unless the increasing trend of pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea is tackled quickly and effectively, piracy could do serious damage to Nigeria’s oil and gas industry, slowing development for years to come, according to Paramount Group, Africa’s largest privately owned defence and aerospace business.
The Gulf of Guinea, a major commodities route, which includes waters off Nigeria, has emerged as a new danger-zone with pirates targeting fuel cargo and loading it onto other ships to sell on the lucrative black market, rather than seeking ransom to release ships, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) had recently said.
The attraction is Nigeria, which is Africa’s largest oil producer with a capacity of over 3 million barrels of oil per day.
In a release on Tuesday, Paramount Group said the number of pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea could double next year if governments do not act to protect off-shore assets, according to Paramount Group.
The solution is not to seek international help to solve these African problems, but to build African solutions to them, the Group said, adding that the development of a strong African shipbuilding industry means it is possible for African nations to find African solutions to the threat of piracy.
It stated that there had 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. This could see an average of two attacks every day of the year.
The Group, however, said that piracy threatens more than just oil and gas assets, adding that criminal gangs at sea are responsible for drug trafficking, arms smuggling, dumping of toxic waste, illegal bunkering and illegal fishing.
This is in addition to the problems caused by the profits from piracy that finance other criminal activities such as terrorism and human trafficking that have significant human and financial cost, it said.
James Fisher, chief executive officer, Paramount Naval Systems, said: “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.