Report sees piracy shift to West African coastline

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A 5 percent global decline in reported incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea is outweighed by the changing threat the maritime community is facing in the Gulf of Guinea, according to the RiskMap Maritime analysis, Control Risks’ guide to maritime risks for 2014.

Although improved ship security measures and naval coordination have been successful in preventing Somali pirates from hijacking large commercial vessels, groups continue to launch attacks and political tension in Somalia highlights how easily the region could see another rise in pirate activity.

Although the RiskMap Maritime 2014 analysis says the number of Horn of Africa piracy incidents continues to decline, ongoing violent unrest and instability onshore in Somalia means that the risk of resurgence is real. Most important, pirates will be more likely to return if the offshore situation changes, if ship security levels drop or naval forces draw down.

“The center of maritime piracy has been shifting west for a number of years, and the decline in activity off East Africa in 2013 has seen the Gulf of Guinea emerge as the global hotspot for maritime crime,” Tom Patterson, head of Control Risks’ maritime risk analysis department, said in a statement.

On the other side of the continent, Control Risks registered a 30 percent increase in piracy incidents and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea. The number of product tanker hijacks for cargo theft decreased by 12.5 percent, but 2013 also saw criminal groups continue to expand their operational area south of Nigeria for the first time.

Furthermore, kidnapping for ransom off the Niger Delta region saw a significant increase both in activity, with incident numbers up 355 percent, compared with the previous year, and in operational range, with successful attacks being recorded farther from the Nigerian coast.

There have been improvements in security measures in the Gulf of Guinea, with local initiatives such as “secure anchorages” in some ports, and the shipping industry has also begun to improve its security awareness while operating in the region.

However, local navies still have a limited capability and the region lacks a centralized reporting and coordination center to assist vessels under attack and coordinate a naval response.

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