Non-State Actors

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea

August 13, 2019

Jacob O'Hare



The Gulf of Guinea led the world in piracy in 2018. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) recorded 201 incidents in 2018, up from 180 in 2017. The gulf accounted for,


  • 6 hijackings

  • 13 of the 18 ships took fire

  • 130 of the 141 hostages

  • 78 of 83 seafarers taken for ransom worldwide


The statistics above are the ones reported, but the IMB believes half of attacks go unreported. Piracy should be a concern for corporations that go through the Gulf of Guinea. Asian and Latin-American pirates are less aggressive, resulting in petty theft and robbery. The pirates in the Gulf of Guinea used to take oil from the tankers, but now since oil prices have dropped, kidnap for ransom (KFR)  is the tactic of choice.  




2019 Attacks


Increased naval presence from Nigeria where boats patrol every hour deters pirate activity from happening. Better cooperation and data sharing between African nations prevents piracy and increases response times. United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) exercises increase naval presence in the region while training is happening. Training by AFRICOM also increases readiness to prevent piracy and neutralize piracy threat. 





Becoming a Pirate in the Gulf of Guinea


  • High unemployment rate

  • Weak law enforcement

  • Unregulated oil market makes it easy for pirates to move and refined products back onto legitimate markets

  • Corruption and fraud are rampant in the Nigerian Oil Sector

  • Profit made from piracy

  • Not a chokepoint for trade like the Gulf of Aden, so maritime security may lack compared to naval vessels in Aden

  • Straits of Malacca and Singapore (SOMS) accounts for 1/3 of the world’s trade and a half of that is oil. Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia (RECAPP). With increased cooperation between ports and increased maritime security, incidents have decreased. 




Anti-piracy Efforts


Piracy costs millions of dollars in petro-piracy, 818.1 million in 2017, and 793.7 million in 2016. Maritime security must increase to prevent hijackings and abductions. 


The European Union (EU) has brought 60 million dollars to the table to combat piracy in the Gulf of Guinea since 2016. Nearly half of that supports the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)’s integrated maritime strategy. The United States State Department provides help regionally through the Africa Maritime Security Initiative (AMSI), funded through peacekeeping operations. AFRICOM conducts exercises in the Gulf of Guinea. It involves 20 African navies, with training on search and rescue, maritime interdiction, and crisis response. 


It is critical to conduct more maritime efforts to prevent more incidents. Although not a chokepoint for trade like the Gulf of Aden, trade still goes through the Gulf of Guinea. Preventing oil revenue from being lost to the black market is crucial to keeping oil prices from becoming too high. Having naval ships escorting oil tankers to their destination or until they are out of the hot spot for piracy should be considered. 


Abductions have happened 100 nautical miles (NM) offshore, which is outside the territorial waters of most African states. Corporations should address private security to prevent abductions and ransoms from happening, if not already done to prevent, or try to prevent countries from hostage rescue situations, or for corporations to give in to ransom demands and lose profit that way. 







Image: Trade Winds (link

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grey Dynamics LTD.

Related Post