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Piracy: holding West Africa hostage

UK Chamber of Shipping

2 min read Partner content

In response to Lord Naseby’s article “Piracy must be addressed,” UK Chamber of Shipping asserts West African countries will remain poor until piracy is tackled.

Most people are aware of the threat of piracy in the Indian Ocean, but lawlessness in the Gulf of Guinea is a major threat to our seafarers, the UK’s energy and trade security, and to the economic development of the region.

Almost all of the UK’s annual £6.3bn of trade with the region is put at risk by being moved through the high maritime crime region of the Gulf of Guinea, including 12% of the UK’s oil. There is at least one attack per week on a ship operating in the region, but up to two thirds of attacks are believed to go unreported and in the past decade, 45 seafarers have been killed and 459 seafarers have been held hostage.

The lack of security in the region costs Nigeria £7.2bn a year in oil theft alone, which shows criminal activity is severely hampering the region’s potential for prosperity. Put simply, these countries will remain poor until their maritime security issues are tackled.

Maritime security should be seen as a facilitator of regional development, and West African countries should be motivated to provide maritime security by the significant economic security that comes with it.

Ghana and Togo have recently acknowledged the economic benefits of improved maritime security, deploying more naval assets and creating a cohesive governance structure that links government with the judiciary and military. They have seen additional economic activity as a result of the improvements they have put in place. Other countries, including Nigeria, urgently need to replicate such policies.

The Royal Navy is playing a world-leading role in training local forces, but the UK’s role must not purely be a military one, it should be seen as a policy area for DFID and the Foreign Office as much as for the MoD, with significant input from local British Embassies in providing training and frameworks that will allow West African governments to develop a cohesive strategy spanning the breadth of their government structures.

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