The resurgence of pirate attacks in African waters is now a subject of serious concern to African states and the international community. For the last decade, piracy in African waters is concentrated in three main regions, namely the Somali coast/the Gulf of Aden along the East African Coast; Nigeria’s territorial waters in West Africa; and the Mozambique Channel/Cape sea route in Southern Africa.
Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence at sea. However, the term can include acts committed on land, air or in other major bodies of water or on a shore. Since 2007 when African waters overtook waters off Southeast Asia – Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Philippines – as the traditionally dangerous hotspots of global piracy, much of the international attention and efforts at countering piracy in Africa have been on Somali maritime piracy.
This is understandably so, because piracy off the Somali coast accounts for more than half of pirate attacks recorded annually in Africa, if not globally. For instance, there were 439 piracy attacks worldwide in 2011, more than half of which were attributed to Somali pirates operating in the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea.
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO), a global maritime watchdog, estimated that in 2011, West African countries lost nearly over $1 billion in oil due to piracy. The increase in ship hijackings off West Africa also shows that the region could emerge as a new piracy hotspot, International Maritime Organisation (IMO), a global maritime watchdog has warned.
The good news however is that Pirate attacks worldwide have witnessed a sharp decline in the first half of 2012 as international naval efforts played a key role in 'frustrating' the menace posed by Somali pirates, a global maritime watchdog has said.
Overall, 177 incidents of sea piracy were reported in the first six months of 2012, compared to 266 incidents for the corresponding period in 2011, the International Maritime Bureau said in a report warning that these numbers were offset by a worrying increase of attacks in the Gulf of Guinea.
The report showed 20 vessels were hijacked worldwide, with a total number of 334 crew members taken hostage. There were a further 80 vessels boarded, 25 vessels fired upon and 52 reported attempted attacks. At least four crew members were killed.
The decrease in the overall number is primarily due to the decline in the incidents of Somali piracy activity, dropping from 163 in the first six months of 2011 to 69 in 2012. Somali pirates also hijacked fewer vessels, down from 21 to 13. Nonetheless, Somali piracy continues to remain a serious threat. Somali pirate attacks cover a vast area, from the Southern Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, and Gulf of Oman to the Arabian Sea and Somali Basin, threatening all shipping routes in the North West Indian Ocean.
Ghana has not experienced any serious pirates attack over the years. This could be that there was not much that attracted the attention of pirates although the country exports cocoa and other valuable items. However, with the discovery of oil and the current economic growth in the country, Ghana is in a state of insecurity when it comes to pirate attack. Ghana’s oil and gas industry is highly at risk if proper measures are not taken to secure the producing grounds and the exportation process if the country begins to export.
The question however is: is Ghana positioned to deal with this canker? Recently, a seminar was held by the Ghana Shippers’ Authority in collaboration with the Ghana journalists’ Association to educate the media on the current trends and updates in the shipping and transport industry.
At the seminar, it was stated that the country generated over 70 per cent of its revenue from the shipping industry. Also, over 90 per cent of Ghana’s international trade is sea borne.
“It’s therefore becomes imperative for the country to highly secure such areas to prevent economic losses should a thing like that happen. The costs involved in rescuing hijacked vessels are high. Lives are put at risk and peaceful global trade is disrupted,” Chief executive officer of Ghana Shippers’ Authority, Dr. Kofi Mbiah, who presented an overview of Ghana’s shipping industry has sated.
He continued: “Thus for Ghana to command her maritime trade and the riches accompanied by it, there is the need to ensure proper safeguarding of our oil and gas manufacturing site and our territorial borders on the sea to include proper security in the exportation and importation activities.”