U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Susan E. Rice today said the scourge of priracy in Gulf of Guine threatens African economies.
At a Security Council meeting on piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, Ms. Rice reported that in recent years, the number of reported incidents of piracy and maritime armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea has increased alarmingly.
“While attacks are underreported, we do know that, in this year alone, at least two dozen maritime armed robbery and piracy attacks were reported in the Gulf of Guinea, with a particularly sharp increase in incidents off the coast of Benin.” – Ms. Rice
She noted that such attacks-whether within territorial waters or on the high seas-threaten regional and maritime security and the safety of seafarers, as well as impede economic growth across West and Central Africa. She added that maritime attacks have included assaults on coastal cities and even an attack on the presidential palace in Malabo, the coastal capital of Equatorial Guinea. Illicit maritime trafficking of goods, drugs, and persons also undermines governance and unravels the fabric of fragile societies.
“The impact of maritime crime on local economies is substantial. It has become a crippling problem in countries including Benin, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana and Nigeria. Militants in the Niger Delta have demonstrated the capacity to reach offshore oil facilities in recent years, threatening the secure supply of the over 2 million barrels of oil that emanate from that region every day. The increasing frequency of attacks against the shipping sector in Benin is a particular concern.” -Ms. Rice
She noted that beyond its impact on the oil sector, by one estimate, attacks on off-shore oil facilities result in the estimated loss of $2 billion annually to the broader regional economy, including the fishing industry and commercial shipping, which is obviously a very high price for a region with urgent development needs and fragile economies.
According to Ms. Rice, there are important differences, thus far, between piracy and maritime attacks in the Gulf of Guinea and those along the coast of Somalia. In the Gulf of Guinea, attackers primarily seek to steal valuable commodities which are often sold illicitly in West and Central Africa. Cargo and valuables are what the attackers typically want-not necessarily the ships, themselves, or the crew and passengers. Somali pirates usually strike on the high seas, then utilize safe havens onshore, where they hold ships and people hostage. In the Gulf of Guinea, criminals often operate closer to shore, usually with a goal of robbery rather than hostage-taking, and have mainly left crews and passengers unharmed.
“The United States is committed to collaborating with our African and other international friends to build national and regional maritime capacity through programs like the Africa Partnership Station and the Africa Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership.” -Ms. Rice
She highlighted that the United States welcomes the Secretary-General’s decision to send a fact-finding team to the Gulf of Guinea, and the United State look forward to receiving his report.