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While assaults on merchant ships in the Gulf of Guinea have diminished, there is still concern about the problem of insecurity in that maritime space shared by several West African countries.
In addition to putting the lives of sailors and coastguards at risk, the lucrative piracy activity has an annual economic cost to the States of the area, estimated at about two billion dollars, according to data from the Nigerian government.
The problem of armed robbery at sea was exposed precisely at the first World Maritime Safety Conference (CMSM), held from October 7 to 9 in Abuja, Nigeria, in which it was revealed that between Ivory Coast and the Republic Democratic of the Congo, last year there were 81 pirate attacks.
That figure represents 40 percent of the world total and double that in 2017, corroborated, for its part, the International Maritime Office, an organization that similar to others realizes that in 2018 on the coast of Somalia no assault was reported to boats.
To get an idea of the seriousness of the incidents that occurred in the Gulf of Guinea, in 2018 in that water mirror the six hijackings of vessels that were reported in the world took place and 13 of the 18 firearms attacks, corroborated researchers.
They also point out that in the aquatic portion of the Atlantic Ocean, sea criminals turned 130 of 141 seamen captured on a planetary scale hostage.
Although Nigeria reported 11 pirate incidents in its ports so far this year, that country, the largest oil producer in Africa, reduced that type of crime in the third quarter from 41 in 2018 to 29 in 2019.
NIGERIA DEPLOYS PATCHED BOATS
In stating the factors that contribute to reducing the actions of criminal groups in the Gulf of Guinea, experts argue the deployment by Abuja of more than 300 patrol boats, along with other actions of governments in the region and the European Navy.
After calling on the international community to join forces to face insecurity in the environment, the president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, insisted that the security and protection of maritime transport are fundamental for the development of seamless trade and effective economic integration .
The request takes place when the region advances in the conformation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which will increase intra-African purchases and sales volumes up to 30 percent in a few years, according to economists.
MORE RESOURCES AGAINST CRIME
In line with the request, the Final Declaration of the CMSM requested that the nations of the region allocate more financial and logistical resources to the strengthening of national navies and coastguards currently fighting crime at sea.
He also requested the maintenance of periodic meetings of area rulers, army chiefs, coast guards and other agencies, to enforce maritime safety laws.
The countries of the Gulf of Guinea should intensify their efforts for capacity building and maritime infrastructure, said the document, which also stated that states should establish mechanisms to prevent illegal exploitation, and theft of marine resources and oil.
The conclave also urged the creation in the African area of a special tribunal that allows the prosecution of maritime criminals in the Gulf of Guinea, many of whom were not sanctioned for their acts.
Although in this and other events on the issue of piracy, the authorities insist on applying more repressive measures to eradicate crime at sea, analysts value that the roots of that problem are often ignored.
It is not a secret that because the nations of that geographical space do not apply enough social policies that benefit coastal communities to face their difficult economic situation and poverty, numerous villagers resort to pillage at sea.
When referring to piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, also exposed to threats such as drug and human trafficking, the Spanish researcher Fernando Ibáñez noted that the framework in which such a phenomenon develops is rarely mentioned.
It considers widespread corruption, unemployment, abandonment of the State and theft of oil on the ground and piracy as labor outlets that twinned pauperized local populations, militants, security forces and senior officials and politicians.
States inserted in the Gulf of Guinea, with multiple pitfalls still to be solved, are committed today to make sure the transit of ships loaded with consumer goods and fuels to territories of the region itself, Europe and other parts of the world.
The extensive aquatic demarcation has great importance for world trade, as it passes through the more than five million barrels of fuel produced by African countries, in addition to mineral resources and precious wood.
Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe are on the list of countries in that privileged marine environment located in central-western Africa.