Gulf of Guinea - BIMCO Bulletin

Gulf of Guinea

Security | Gulf of Guinea May 2018 Lack of reporting puts piracy fight at risk By Rasmus Nord Jrgensen, Communications Director at BIMCO If the maritime industry consistently underreports, we should not expect politicians to prioritize the problem Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is an endemic problem, and at risk of worsening. Shipping companies must report incidents in the region to maintain efforts to combat the problem, security experts warn. T he frequency of piracy, or armed robbery at sea, in the Gulf of Guinea has increased in the first quarter of 2018, and the issue is not going to disappear. If shipowners and captains dont report incidents that they experience, the industry risks a serious resurgence of this crime when countries supporting maritime security in the region redirect their efforts to other hot spots, claim experts. Piracy and maritime crime has always gone on in this area; the same goes for the Gulf of Aden. It wont go away entirely the situation we are in is, to some degree, the new normal. Maritime security is often not the top priority of the respective countries, says Christian Bueger, Professor of International Relations at Cardiff University in the UK, and director of the SafeSeas initiative. He points out that countries surrounding the Gulf of Guinea have more pressing economic and security problems than maritime security for example, the fight against the terrorist organisation Boko Haram in Nigeria. There is still a lot of attention on the Gulf of Guinea, but that attention is in decline. The world is looking at Syria, Yemen, Ukraine and other hot spots, says Bueger, who believes piracy could increase as a result. Report accurately Keeping governments attention fixed on the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) requires accurate reports from the maritime industry. There are numerous global security concerns, and if reporting of incidents in the GoG is not accurate, it is hard for politicians to evaluate the actual threat and prioritise accordingly, says Katja Lindskov Jacobsen, Senior Researcher at the University of Copenhagens Centre for Military Studies. Photo credit: The boarding team from Type 23 frigate HMS Monmouthis silhouetted during maritime approach and assist operations in the Arabian Gulf. As part of her commitment to Maritime Security in the Gulf, HMS Monmouth regularly conducts maritime Approach and Assist visits to dhows and other small craft working in the area. The prime purpose of these visits is to help local fishermen and other mariners in need of assistance, while also providing reassurance that the Royal Navy and other coalition warships in the area are there to keep the region free of piracy. She recently returned from Cameroon, where she followed the capacity-building effort of the Danish Special Operations Forces. Lindskov Jacobsen says she cant predict how the situation will develop, because it is complex and closely tied to events on land, such as local elections and the overall security situation. Furthermore, local governments have their own maritime priorities; in Cameroon, one of the issues in focus currently is illegal fishing by foreign trawlers, which threatens the livelihoods of the local fishermen. But she is clear on what shipowners must do. You must send information and take sensible precautions. If the maritime industry consistently under-reports, we should not expect politicians to prioritise the problem, she says. We also need to understand the drivers of maritime crime better, to come up with appropriate solutions. The place to report threats or incidents is the Marine Domain Awareness for Trade Gulf of Guinea. It was previously known as MTISC GoG, and located in Ghana, but because of rumours of instances when information provided was used to supply pirates, the centre was changed and is now jointly hosted by the UK and France. Lindskov Jacobsen acknowledges that the move to the UK and France is a good short-term solution for the centre, but long term she believes it must be locally anchored. We need dialogue and an actual presence, and then we have to be extremely patient, she says. Develop trust Bueger also points out that it takes time to build the required trust and communication channels. Shipowners have a hard time figuring out who to talk to in these countries, he says. The two experts believe a shipping organisation, such as BIMCO, could serve as a reliable partner between local governments and the shipping industry. It would also be an advantage if the economic benefits of maritime security were highlighted in the region. The blue economy and maritime security go hand in hand, says Bueger, who urges the industry to be realistic about the security situation. In every city you have a certain level of crime even in peaceful Copenhagen. We have to ask ourselves, what level of crime is acceptable? he argues. Lindskov Jacobsen sees it slightly differently. An important question is what the illegal activity is financing. If it is going to terrorism, it will never be tolerated whereas, if it finances someones livelihood, thats a different matter, she says. Photo credit (top): Royal Navy Type 23 frigate HMS Kent is pictured during counter piracy operations in the Indian Ocean. Both researchers agree that shipowners shouldnt expect great improvements in the maritime security situation around the Gulf of Guinea particularly Nigeria in the short- to medium-term. With patience and a concerted effort by the maritime community, however, it may reach an acceptable level in the long term. 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