Fighting Pirates in the Gulf of Guinea
A French frigate is silently patrolling the ocean. In the deep waters off Port Harcourt, the battleship is patrolling a 200 square kilometers area.
All Aboard a French Frigate Fighting Pirates in the Gulf of Guinea
By Nathalie Guibert
GULF OF GUINEA – In the dark of night, dozens of oil wells are spitting orange flames. They are the only things to be seen on this jet-black sea. This area south of Nigeria is one of the largest offshore oil fields in the world.
There are no lights on the deck of the Latouche-Treville either. The French frigate is silently patrolling the ocean. On this June night, in the deep waters off Port Harcourt, the battleship is patrolling a 200 square kilometers area. The area is rigged with traps: abandoned derricks, secondary platforms, primary platforms and pipelines binding them together like a spider web, over thousands of kilometers. On the navy maps, the wells of French oil company Total look like big coins.
The Latouche-Treville is engaged in “informal conversations” with the French companies in this area but the frigate wants to be able to patrol without having to report to anyone. It doesn’t answer the calls of foreigners asking for identification. “It’s the law of the jungle, here,” says the officer of the watch. The oilrigs are violating international laws by drawing a 20-kilometer (instead of the authorized 500-meter) security perimeter around their platforms, which is guarded by private military companies. “The guards are very nervous. Insecurity is very high,” says the officer.
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Photo credit: Marine nationale.