Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA’s) opening remarks at on behalf of the Director General at the 3rd Annual Combating Piracy: West African Maritime Security conference in Lagos, Nigeria
Opening Speech By The Executive Chairman Of The Conference On The Challenges of Piracy and Wider Maritime Crime in West Africa. (July 23rd -24th, 2013).
I hereby specially welcome you all to this conference to review the threats posed on West African Waters and proffer sustainable efforts to combat the menace termed PIRACY and Wider Maritime Crime on our waters. For the first time, piracy now affects more seafarers in West African waters than off Somalia’s coast, according to figures from the International Maritime Bureau released recently.
The statistics show that the number of incidents of piracy and other maritime crimes has increased in West Africa, but the amount of pirate activity in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden has fallen dramatically. This suggests that the concerted and wide-ranging international efforts to counter Somali piracy have been a success – between May 2012 and May 2013, UN officials noted that there were no hijackings in the Indian Ocean at all.
The rise in West African maritime insecurity primarily affects the Gulf of Guinea: a coastal zone stretching from Senegal to Angola that provides an economic lifeline to coastal and land-locked West African countries, and is of strategic importance to the rest of the world. Safe passage to ports in the region and security within its waters are vital. Firstly for global energy production, as Nigeria and Angola are amongst the world’s top ten crude oil exporters; secondly, West Africa’s fishing industry provides millions of dollars in revenue for European and Asian fishing fleets; and thirdly, for the prevention of the trafficking of narcotics, people and weapons into West African states and Europe.
On June, 25th 2013, 13 state leaders from Central & West Africa met in Yaoundé, Cameroon, where they signed agreements to encourage cooperation in combating maritime crime, which costs the region over $2 billion annually. International action on the issue was spurred when Benin’s president made a speech at the UN a few years ago calling for assistance in combating maritime crime and drug-trafficking which had contributed to a 70% decrease in the number of ships entering the port of Benin’s economic capital, Cotonou. In response to the UN Security Council’s passing of Resolution 2039 in February 2012, which urged West African countries to counter piracy on regional and national levels, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Gulf of Guinea Commission (CGG) ensured that maritime security features heavily on the agenda of the Yaoundé summit.
In the Gulf of Guinea, maritime threats are manifest in a variety of ways. Kidnapping of crews is rarer in West Africa, as criminals at sea tend to use extreme violence to extract valuables, equipment or cargo from a vessel and its crew. Tankers carrying oil or other chemical products are hijacked, and their cargos are siphoned off for resale by criminals. West Africa is also one of the world’s main locations for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Almost 40% of the fish caught in West African waters is taken illegally, costing the region’s governments up to $1.5 billion annually and damaging the marine environment.
Most states in the Gulf of Guinea enjoy relative political and economic stability, functioning state institutions and strong rule of law. This offers some hope that if maritime security is prioritized on a national and regional level, criminality could be contained. Political will to reduce corruption and effective law enforcement would go some way to limit the time and space maritime criminals need to increase their scope of operation, as seen in the Indian Ocean.
However, while the regional bodies of ECOWAS and ECCAS have highlighted the detrimental effect of maritime insecurity, West African governments still have to prioritize the national action necessary to combat this insecurity. International policymakers must also recognize the impact of insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea on their own interests, and the culpability of international elements in some aspects of this.
The EU could lead international efforts through its soon-to-be announced Strategic Framework for the Gulf of Guinea. This Conference has the potential to galvanize West African countries, EU member states and other international actors to adopt the comprehensive approach needed to tackle the interconnected types of maritime crime in West Africa. But action and attention on the issue must be sustained. One of the chief lessons from efforts to combat Somali piracy is that early action by policymakers, regionally and further afield, could do much to ensure that criminality does not evolve and increase to an unmanageable extent.
Following Hanson Wade’s highly acclaimed Combating Piracy meetings, the inaugural Combating Piracy: West African Maritime Security conference addresses the security challenges you face when operating in the Gulf of Guinea. This important forum has brought together key stakeholders in the Maritime Sector with potential responsibility for influencing, facilitating progressing and educating the world and this event will provide a unique opportunity to thrash out the national and regional challenges of operating in West African waters.
Here are 6 significant reasons not to miss Combating Piracy: West African Maritime Security:
1. Get to grips with the true nature of the problem: The IMO, the Nigerian Government and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office update you on the latest work being done at the national and international level to combat the problems of maritime crime
2. Learn about the innovative strategies being rolled out at the local and regional level to combat maritime crime: Including insights from NIMASA and the Nigerian Ports Authority
3. Hear first-hand accounts from the oil and gas industry: With a large proportion of the world’s oil and gas resources based in West Africa, hear the latest work being done by Shell Petroleum Development Company Nigeria Ltd and Addax Petroleum Development Nigeria Limited to protect their resources
4. Share the concerns of the shipping industry: Tackling the challenges surrounding levels of violence used, liability and the impact on the shipping industry – ISAN and BIMCO outline the support that is available and the work that needs to be done
5. Hear the situation in Cameroon, a case study: Assessing the impact of maritime crime throughout West Africa. The National Shippers’ Council, Cameroon outlines the impact of the upsurge of piracy in territorial waters on Cameroon
6. Protect yourself – Tackling the West African hub for drugs, arms and people smuggling: Find out the latest work being done to make sure you don’t become caught up in drugs, arms and people smuggling. INTERPOL and the Maritime Piracy Task Force reveal the work they’re doing
I therefore implore all of us to brainstorm effectively and efficiently to proffer potential solutions which if implemented will significantly reduce, if not eliminate piracy and wider maritime crimes on West African water as I hereby humbly declare this conference officially open.
I wish all of us a fruitful deliberations and a lovely day. Thank You!