Maritime Challenges in the Gulf of Guinea

Booming oil, mining, infrastructure and power generation sectors have transformed West Africa into a major destination for project cargo. West Africa is also exporting raw materials and importing consumer goods. As trade largely depends on sea-based transport, this should be good news for the maritime industry

Maritime Challenges in the Gulf of Guinea

Booming oil, mining, infrastructure and power generation sectors have transformed West Africa into a major destination for project cargo. West Africa is also exporting raw materials and importing consumer goods. As trade largely depends on sea-based transport, this should be good news for the maritime industry.

However, the Gulf of Guinea has turned into a hot spot for maritime crime and is regarded as too challenging and dangerous for many vessel owners, who prefer to do business in safer, more profitable and stable regions. This hampers local trade and development. Thus, maritime security is important for the maritime industry and for the people in the region. Immediate actions are required to fight maritime crime.

Such actions can only be initiated by open dialogue amongst the stakeholders. vessel owners who decide to play safe will generally have to increase their freight rates to cover the cost of their extra security measures and insurance premiums. In a very competitive market, this means vessel operators with a committed approach to Health, Safety, Security, Environment and Quality (HSSEQ) might not be able to compete against vessel operators less concerned with the safety and well-being of their crew, with their impact on the environment and with the quality of the maritime security firm employed (if any).

Shippers and cargo owners often lack detailed knowledge about the organization involved in vessel operations, including whether or not there is a dedicated focus on HSSEQ. In these cases, as long as the vessel is suitable for the cargo, the
important factor is the price. Hence, some high-quality ship owners could survive maritime crime only to be brought down by fierce freight rate competition. West African countries need to find a way to secure their waters and meet standards that ensure the safety of the environment and of crews sailing in the area and that encourage owners to provide the vessels needed to move cargo effectively to and from the area.

Being involved in vessel chartering and operations, Afromarine experiences every day the whole range of negative consequences caused by the escalating maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea. We see that high quality, HSSEQcommitted vessel operators have no chance when competing with carriers more willing to take risks. We see vessel owners refuse to send their vessels to Nigeria, resulting in lost revenue for both operators and brokers and an operational challenge for the intended charterer, who ends up without a muchneeded vessel.

Many companies and vessel operators active in the area do not want to talk about the way their commercial and operational activities are affected by the current situation in the Gulf of Guinea.

Why is that?

Isn’t open communication an important first step in making authorities aware of reality as seen from a vessel operators’ point of view? Are private maritime security companies in a position to objectively report on th current security situation in the Gulf of Guinea? Or does the constant need for revenue influence the reports produced?

We hope to initiate a useful discussion about Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea; one that could really make an impact. Please send us your thoughts on the topic, including real life experiences and possible solutions.

Audun Mikalsen is Managing Director of Afromarine Ltd (www.afromarine.com), a maritime service provider with its head office in London and operational activities throughout the Sub-Saharan region. Afromarine Ltd is heavily involved in chartering and operations of Multi-Purpose, Dry Bulk and Anchor Handling Tug Supply Vessels in the Gulf of Guinea. Audun Mikalsen can be reached at audun.mikalsen@afromarine.com

Source: Break Bulk

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