18 June 2013 – Piracy off oil-rich West Africa could have cost nearly $1 billion for the shipping and offshore industry last year as the region now leads Somalia in terms of risks to seafarers, according to a new report.
Nearly 1000 seafarers were attacked by pirates in the volatile Gulf of Guinea last year although the region still suffers from a lack of incident reporting, the Human Cost of Maritime Piracy 2012 report read.
The report was compiled by the Ocean Beyond Piracy group, which is jointly formed by the International Maritime Bureau, One Earth Foundation and Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme.
Although the number of seafarers affected by piracy worldwide “decreased significantly” last year, according to the report, incidents off West Africa now affect more seafarers than off Somalia, an area which has dominated the piracy headlines for years.
“The risks of piracy and armed robbery are intensifying in some parts of the world, such as the Gulf of Guinea region, said One Earth Foundation founder, Marcel Arsenault.
“Despite the growing number of seafarers affected by violence in that region, the area has not yet received the attention that was brought to Somalia.”
In total 966 seafarers were attacked by pirates off West Africa last year with 800 on vessels that were boarded and 206 hostages taken. This is compared to 851 crew attacked off Somalia where 381 were on vessels which were boarded there and 349 were taken hostage.
Although the average period of detention for a hostage of Somali pirates was 11 months last year, it is just four days off West Africa. However, seafarers are generally subjected to closer and more violent contact with attackers, the report says.
“West Africa pirates’ knowledge of and access to sophisticated weapons gives them an advantage. Their knowledge and weapon quality can even surpass that of the security personnel hired to protect vessels,” the report says.
Apart from the increased risks off West Africa, there is also a chronic lack of reporting of incidents, although there is also some lack of reporting off Somalia. West Africa also suffers by far a high boarding rate of vessels by pirates with offshore support vessels the most frequently attacked for kidnap and ransom demands, the report says.
The total cost of piracy off West Africa was estimated at between $740 million and $950 million last year with the cost of war risk and kidnap and ransom cover put at between $423 million and $437 million. In addition the cost of having armed guards on vessels and offshore structures was around $150 million, the cost of military assistance between $100 million and $150 million and the value of stolen goods at between $34 million and $101 million.
In all, piracy worldwide was estimated to have cost $6 billion with the shipping industry hit for $5 billion of this. With ransoms in Somali piracy cases – thoughts to average over $3 million per ship – by far exceeding those off West Africa, much of the bill relates to the eastern side of Africa.
The sentiments in the report echo those made by Norwegian security analyst firm Bergen Risk Solutions in a recent report where it said piracy off Nigeria was “out of control” in some areas.
Waters off Bayelsa and Rivers states have been particularly plagued by heavily-armed groups with attacks on offshore and merchant vessels typically comings in swathes within the space of a day or few days.
*Eoin O’Cinnide, Upstreamonline/BBC news