New Hot Spot

The modern pirates of Somalia are no swashbuckling buccaneers. They are maritime bandits, disrupting one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and costing the global economy billions. Recently, they’ve stepped up their brutality. What caused this piracy? How can it be stopped?

Pirates: West Africa is a new hot spot for violence on the seas
Seafarers in the Gulf of Guinea also threatened by piracy that is even more deadly than in the Horn of Africa.
By Tristan McConnell, Global Post

NAIROBI, Kenya — Piracy — long associated with Somalia — has a dangerous new frontline.

Across the continent on West Africa’s oil-rich Gulf of Guinea, criminal gangs are stepping up their attacks.

The perpetrators, often steeped in Nigeria’s violent and organized criminal culture, are quick to kill.

In mid-February, pirates boarded the Fourseas, a Taiwanese-owned bulk cargo ship, 126 miles off the coast of Nigeria. They killed the ship’s captain and chief engineer in a barrage of gunfire unleashed from their speedboat, according to local news reports.

The attack took place in the heart of the busy trade routes. It is just the latest example of an escalation that has governments and shippers worried.

Last August, the waters off the coast of Nigeria and Benin were — for the first time — judged to be as risky as those off Somalia by Lloyd’s Market Association, a group of London-based maritime insurers.

The number of recorded pirate strikes in West Africa rose from 45 in 2010 to 64 in 2011, but it is widely believed that sea hits in this region are underreported. There were at least 10 assaults in January and February this year, according to the UN’s International Maritime Organization.

A recent British parliament report noted the “copycat” nature of West African pirate gangs, but added, “while lessons should be learned from the experience with Somali piracy, such as the importance of swift intervention, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea has on the whole followed a different model to that of Somali piracy.”

An important difference, and one that works against the pirates, is that while Nigeria is dysfunctional and highly corrupt, it is a state with a government and security forces, unlike Somalia.

Another key distinction is that………[access full article]

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