West Africa is world’s new piracy hotspot — Report

EU calls for renewed efforts to battle resurgent piracy off Somali coast
Illustrative picture. PHOTO: SHIPS & PORTS archive

U.S.-based non-governmental organization, One Earth Future, released its ninth annual State of Maritime Piracy report on Monday, identifying West Africa as becoming the world’s new piracy hotspot with 54 incidents occurring in 2015, 95 in 2016, 97 in 2017 and a worrying 112 in 2018.

According to the report, which shows incidents of hijacking, kidnapping, robberies and boarding attempts in different maritime regions, the increase occurred for a number of reasons including poverty, political instability, a lack of proper law enforcement and a long list of lucrative targets.

“The last point is true of Nigeria which experienced the most attacks due to an increase in “petro-piracy” which has targeted vessels involved in oil and gas transportation. Another simple reason for West Africa’s rise is the downward trend in other regions, particularly East Africa and Asia,” the report said.

The One Earth Future report also stated that while East African shipping routes near Somalia used to be notorious for pirates, the number of incidents in the region has fallen dramatically in recent years, “primarily due to a series of effective international naval operations”.

“In 2017, East Africa experienced 54 incidents of piracy or robbery and that fell to just nine last year. The Malacca Strait also gained a reputation for maritime hijackings and extortion but steady progress is also being made there. 199 attacks were recorded across Asia in 2015 and that fell to 98 by 2018,” it said.

The report further stated that amid growing fears of a military clash between the United States and Iran, the strategic Strait of Hormuz has swiftly become one of the most dangerous regions on the planet for commercial shipping.

“Following alleged attacks on two tankers by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps last week, the U.S. and Iran have confirmed the shooting down of a sophisticated American surveillance drone worth an estimated $130 million,” it added.