Nigerian Piracy: A Small Step

Published Sep 18, 2014 2:54 PM by The Maritime Executive

Op-Ed by John Guy

A small step where a giant leap is needed. The Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) is setting up maritime zones to co-ordinate information about and action against piracy off West Africa. If it is true, and if it happens, it is a small step in the right direction. The first zone includes Nigeria, so here is some information for the zone co-ordinators.

Nigeria houses the politicians and fat cats who fund, turn a blind eye to and profit from piracy in your zone. Shipowners are reluctant to report piracy attacks because your police forces and navies make things worse. They have their hands in the pot, not on the guns needed to deal with the pirates.

Piracy off West Africa is at a tipping point. It is getting worse quickly. More violent, more flagrant, more profitable. But no-one can steal oil cargoes without an infrastructure to dispose of the oil and a market for it. The authorities in the coastal states know quite well who is behind the piracy and where the stolen oil goes.

Setting up zones is a nice way of taking a small step towards doing nothing much. A giant leap forward would be to follow the money and bang up the fat cats responsible. If the coastal states won’t act, which is most likely, then their trading partners in Europe should. Visa bans on corrupt politicians fronting pirate organisations would be a start. When their wives can’t spend the cash in Harrods, seafarers might get a little safer.

John Guy served on merchant ships and warships for sixteen years before becoming a ship inspector and then a journalist. He advises companies and organizations working in the global shipping industry on media and crisis management. His latest novel is The Golden Tide.