The number of pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea could double next year if governments do not act to protect off-shore assets, according to Paramount Group, Africa’s largest privately owned defence and aerospace business.
There have been over 360 attacks on merchant shipping this year and without action by West African governments this could rise to over 700 incidents in 2014.This could see an average of two attacks every day of the year.
However, piracy threatens more than just oil and gas assets, criminal gangs at sea are responsible for drug trafficking, arms smuggling, dumping of toxic waste, illegal bunkering and illegal fishing.
This is in addition to the problems caused by the profits from piracy that finance other criminal activity such as terrorism and human trafficking that have a significant human and financial cost.
James Fisher, CEO of Paramount Naval Systems said: “As stronger counter-piracy measures have developed in East Africa, criminal organisations have come to see coastal assets in West Africa as soft targets. The result is that the waters of the Gulf of Guinea are now the most dangerous in Africa for merchant shipping.
“West African nations are rapidly developing their oil and gas infrastructure to capitalise on existing assets and exploit new offshore discoveries. These assets can serve as the driver of long-term economic development in these countries, boosting industry, creating thousands of jobs and bringing in billions of dollars of foreign investment.
“Unless it is tackled quickly and effectively, piracy could do serious damage to Ghana’ soil and gas industry, slowing development for years to come.
“The solution is not to seek international help to solve these African problems, but to build African solutions to them. The development of a strong African shipbuilding industry means it is possible for African nations to find African solutions to the threat of piracy”.
In response to growing demand from sovereign governments across Africa and the developing world, Paramount Naval Systems is developing a fleet of multi-role patrol vessels.
The speed and flexibility of Paramount’s ships mean they are ideal for a wide range of operations in coastal waters to prevent illegal activity and protect assets and territory.
Paramount presented their multi-role naval vessels as part of the fight against piracy in West Africa at Africa’s largest maritime security event, Maritime & Coastal Security Africa in Cape Town (November 25-27), where Rear Admiral GM Biereko, Chief of Naval staff, Ghanaian Navy and Commodore Godson Zowonoo, Flag officer Command, Ghanaian Navy, highlighted developments in West African navies’ response to piracy threats.
Attacks on shipping in the Gulf of Guinea have become the greatest threat to merchant shipping in Africa, surpassing attacks off Somalia in 2012.
Currently there is an average of one attack per day on ships in the Gulf of Guinea and the trend is only worsening.
Fisher continued:“To protect national resources, it’s essential to invest in flexible and modern maritime resources to patrol coastal waters and effectively counter piracy.
“Our multi-role patrol vessels establish a capability that allows African navies to respond rapidly to an array of terrorist and criminal threats by giving naval forces the resources to ensure they are always a step ahead of the pirates.”