12/04/2013 Defence IQ Press
What to do about the troubling rise in piracy off the West African coast in the Gulf of Guinea? While East Africa’s piracy problem – most notably in Somalia – has been addressed after years of conflict and unrest, the seas off the coast of Nigeria, Togo, Ghana and neighbouring countries are presenting a new challenge for counter-piracy operators.
With piracy off the West African coast set to double next year, James Fisher, chief executive of Paramount Naval Systems, said, “Criminal organisations now 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.”
According to Defenceweb, Fisher warned that piracy could set back Africa’s economic development for decades unless tackled now.
“West African nations are rapidly developing 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 billions of dollars of foreign investment.
“Unless tackled quickly and effectively piracy could do serious damage to West Africa’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 said.
If piracy off the Nigerian coast is not to hasten the expansion of well connected, armed, motivated and radical criminal groups in Africa the problem must be addressed at the root and not with the pirates at sea. The only way this can come about is if international governments and organisations commit to information sharing within a framework of greater regional cooperation to identify and weed out the “kingpins” behind the piracy problem.