01 December 2013 – GHANA’s oil and gas assets could face serious threats from increasing pirate activities in the Gulf of Guinea, as a new report suggests that these activities in the region could double, with attacks, presently one a day, set to rise to two a day in 2014.
According to Paramount Group, Africa’s largest privately-owned defence and aerospace business, unless pragmatic measures are put in place to protect the country’s offshore assets, “piracy could do serious damage to Ghana’s oil and gas industry, slowing development for years to come.”
A main driver of pirate activities in the Gulf of Guinea has been the boom in the regional oil ‘black market’, where stolen oil finds a ready market on the high seas, and also serving as a conduit for drug and arms trafficking in the West Africa region.
The problem has, however, assumed an international concern, on the basis that more than 30 percent of US oil and 40 percent of Europe’s oil passes through the Gulf, and is vulnerable to pirate activities.
By the beginning of the last quarter of 2013, the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre had recorded 30 pirate attacks in Nigeria alone, including two hijacking acts.
The International Maritime Organisation’s 2012 Annual Report also indicated that despite a decline in Somalia-related piracy, the pirates’ success rate had seen significant increase of attacks vessels tanker vessels.
Finding home-grown solutions, a security analyst at the Kofi Annan Peace Keeping Centre, Dr. Kwesi Aning, has often expressed concern over the sophisticated nature of pirate activities in the region, and called for consistent study on the strategies, the groups, their modes of attack, and their weaponry, to be able to design the response mechanisms needed to tackle the menace, but laments:
“Unfortunately, I think there is a certain unwillingness to accept that this is going to be a growing trend, therefore, we need to start designing the response mechanisms.” According to the International Crises Group, an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflict, has warned that “the Gulf of Guinea piracy is, above all, an organised crime problem. Ships will never be safe until authorities strengthen police capacity to investigate and prosecute criminal networks, as well as enforce a zero tolerance policy for corruption in security services.”
James Fisher, CEO of Paramount Naval Systems, says: “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.”