Please select your home edition
Edition
Naiad

Gulf of Guinea replaces Somalia as most dangerous place to sail

by Tom Thompson**, The Maritime Executive/Sail-World on 4 Jun 2013
Piracy is being gradually controlled in Somali waters .. .
Piracy May Be Getting Worse, Not Better, according to The Maritime Executive. The Gulf of Guinea is fast replacing Somalia as the world's most dangerous place to sail. While the frequency of pirate attacks off the Horn of Africa has fallen to its lowest level since 2009, this is no time to celebrate, says analyst Tom Thompson, with two vessels and 60 crewmembers still held:

More alarming is the increase in the capabilities of pirate groups in West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, now challenging Somalia as the world’s most dangerous place to sail. Nigeria accounted for 27 attacks last year, and Togo reported more attacks in 2012 than in the previous two years combined.

It’s the dynamics of these attacks that is especially worrisome.

Strategically, the West Africa region of the Gulf of Guinea is the source of 15 percent of U.S. oil imports, which some analysts believe will increase to 25 percent over the next five years.

The region has the fastest rate of discovery of new reserves in the world, and those reserves have become a magnet drawing oil majors from the U.S., Europe and Asia. Where the large tankers go, without the protection of the combined naval forces that protect the waters around Somalia, so go the pirates.

Tankers in particular are the prized prey of pirates, who, frankly, are better described as a powerful transnational mafia. Sophisticated pirate networks often have vast knowledge of the operations of the oil industry and access to vital information, including the names of ships, intended voyage course, value of the cargo, whether or not armed guards are aboard, and the extent of the insurance cover. It's no place for the leisure sailor to be.

Many attacks are unreported. And any possible hostage value is far exceeded by the value of the oil to be siphoned off prior to black market 'recycling' back into the global supply system. Goods such as fish, cocoa, and minerals are also targets.

Staying out of the shipping zones and close to the coast is not recommended either. Piracy attacks in West Africa do not always occur on the high seas. Vessels are predominantly attacked in territorial waters. This prevents the easy use of either private or international military forces, a situation not made easier by a string of small countries with limited maritime enforcement capability. Then, too, there have been cases where security officials and politicians in the region are complicit in the piracy and theft of oil.

Pirate attacks on ships in the Gulf of Guinea are threatening one of the world’s fast-growing strategic hubs. They are likely to intensify unless the region’s weak naval and coast guard defenses are beefed up soon.

**Tom Thompson is an analyst at the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) and has traveled extensively in West Africa. His views are not necessarily those of MARAD or of any U. S. government agency.

Related Articles

Sailing in the Olympics beyond 2016 - A double Olympic medalist's view
Bruce Kendall takes a look at what he believes Sailing needs to do to survive beyond the 2016 Olympics. Gold and Bronze medalist and multiple world boardsailing/windsurfer champion, Bruce Kendall takes a look at what he believes Sailing needs to do to survive beyond the 2016 Olympics. A key driver is the signalled intention by the International Olympic Committee to select a basket of events that will be contested.
Posted today at 12:16 pm
From Olympic flag to Olympic Gold and maybe another
The Sydney Olympics was a Sailing double 470 Gold event for Australia. Having won the 420 World Championship in 2000, the feeder class to the 470, while still at school in Australia young Matt Belcher was given the honour of carrying the Olympic flag during the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
Posted on 28 Apr
The Road to Rio now 99 days short
The Road to Rio 2016 still has a few curves, bumps and potholes for teams battling to win. The Road to Rio 2016 still has a few curves, bumps and potholes for teams battling to win in Hyeres, at some World championship events and Weymouth World Cup but for many crews: 'It's 106 miles to Chicago we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark and we're wearing sunglasses.' Whoops wrong movie.
Posted on 28 Apr
America's Cup - Oracle Racing win in Court but with collateral damage
Oracle Racing have had another claim against them by a former crew member dismissed. Oracle Racing have had another claim against them by a former crew member dismissed. Mitchell focussed largely on the circumstances of the matter and introduced into the public arena some interesting documents to support his claims.
Posted on 23 Apr
An interview with Jake Beattie about the 2016 Race to Alaska
In 2014, Jake Beattie and a few friends envisioned the Race to Alaska. Now, it’s time this wild race’s second edition. In 2014, Jake Beattie-the executive director of the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend, Washington, and a few friends hatched the bold idea of a human-powered race to Ketchikan, Alaska, took flight. They decided that their human-powered race would start in Port Townsend, Washington and run to Ketchikan, by way of the inside passage between Vancouver Island and British Columbia.
Posted on 14 Apr
Children of the Internet, Rio and Hong Kong
I have four daughters, the youngest, who in her mid 20's is a true child of the Internet. I have four daughters, the youngest, who in her mid 20's is a true child of the Internet. The kind of conversations I have with her run along these lines.... In the olden days we did not have television until I left school and they had a thing called print magazines, that reported events between two weeks and four months after they happened. And her sceptical response... Hoh! Daddy, Hoh!
Posted on 14 Apr
Go fast girls - 49er FX sailors Paris Henken and Helena Scutt
Paris Henken and Helena Scutt will be representing the USA at the Rio 2016 Olympics, which will be their first Olympiad. American’s Paris Henken (20) and Helena Scutt (23) recently won a berth to represent the USA at the Rio 2016 Olympics in the high-performance 49er FX skiff, a goal that the team has been working on for almost three years. While this is their first Games, writing them off as Olympic newbies would require ignoring their recent results and their strong teamwork.
Posted on 13 Apr
World Sailing Cup V3 - A Dead Rat in a Shoe or Spring Daffodils?
While a host of major sailing events go from strength to strength, the Sailing World Cup has very major issues. Last night my Irish better half was sitting beside me on the sofa watching an Australian version of the popular TV Cooking Program My Kitchen Rules on a tablet with her headphones while I was watching Diehard II for the seventeenth time (it’s a boy thing) on TV. She suddenly spluttered and laughed, took off her headphones and motioned for me to mute Diehard. (Seriously!!)
Posted on 9 Apr
Volvo Ocean Race appoints stadium racing pioneer as new CEO
Sail-World forecast the appointment of Mark Turner as Volvo Ocean Race CEO a month ago. We profiled Turner at that time. Sail-World forecast the appointment of Mark Turner as Volvo Ocean Race CEO a month ago. We profiled Turner at that time. Today his appointment has been confirmed.
Posted on 31 Mar
Large spectator fleet heading north for boat watching season
I’m absolutely not going to lay claim to the phrase, but it is insanely apt and hilarious all at the same time, however. I’m absolutely not going to lay claim to the phrase. It is insanely apt and hilarious, all at the same time, however. Well then, boat watching season is definitely upon us once more. The whales will soon be gathering again off the coast of Queensland to observe all manner of racing and cruising craft as they head North for a Winter in the sun.
Posted on 29 Mar
Schaefer 2016 660x82North Technology - Southern SparsKilwell - 3