In the first half of 2013 the Gulf of Guinea for the first time experienced more pirate attacks than those areas in which Somali pirates operate. BMI believes that shipping companies will be becoming ever more wary of serving the West African countries afflicted, and will be increasing surcharges to shippers in the region in order to cover rising war risk insurance premiums. By contrast, Somalia is making a return to shipping companies' rotations, with Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) the first major liner firm to announce it was entering Mogadishu.
Piracy attributed to Somali pirates continues to fall dramatically. BMI looked at this phenomenon in detail in April ( see 'Stability Onshore Increases Stability Offshore', April 24). We noted how the improving situation on the ground had seen pirate attacks decline massively, as the international community took an increased interest in the failed state and its first parliament since 1991 was inaugurated in August 2012, in addition to the now almost ubiquitous presence of armed guards on vessels, best practice guidelines being followed and continued naval patrols. In 2012 pirate attacks from Somalia fell for the first time, with only 75 incidents reported over the year, down 68.2% on 2011. This can in part be attributed to weather conditions having made piracy less feasible for parts of the year, but we believe it is mostly due to increased security both offshore and on land. This trend of diminishing attacks has continued through the first six months of 2013, with attacks attributed to Somali pirates (these include not only incidents off Somalia, but also those in the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean) having come to just eight; this compares with 69 in H112 and 143 in H111.
The increasing safety on the seas, coupled with an ameliorating economic environment ashore, has seen MSC, the second-largest container shipping company in the world, announce that it has started a new fortnightly service between the Omani port of Salalah and the Somali port of Mogadishu. The first vessel on the service carried 1,344 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) to the Salalah port on July 6. The service is expected to enhance bilateral trade between the two countries, which has been projected at US$116mn. This followed local UAE-based feeder vessel operator, Simatech, having announced its entry to the market in April.
|A Growing West African Concern|
|Gulf Of Guinea & Somali H1 Pirate Attacks, 2008-2013|
By contrast, pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea (encompassing attacks off Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Cameroon, Equitorial Guinea and Ghana) continue to grow. Attacks in the region had fallen from 24 in H108 to just 12 in H110. However, by H112 they had climbed back up to 28, and in the first six months of 2013 attacks numbered 31, far outstripping the eight attributed to Somali pirates.
This will be of major concern to those West African countries affected. While the number of attacks still appears slight, especially when compared with the number of attacks by Somali pirates in their heyday, European shipping companies serving countries like Nigeria have been introducing surcharges to their services, in order to cover their growing insurance premiums. This has led to concerted efforts by regional states to present a unified front in combating the scourge. In March a conference in Cotonou, Benin, led to a statement by heads of state and foreign ministers that: 'The ministers are worried by the serious threats posed by piracy, armed robbery and other illegal maritime activities in the waters of Central Africa and West Africa.' This was followed by another conference in Cameroon in June, where a two-day conference, attended by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and other premiers, resulted in codified actions against piracy by regional countries, later welcomed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. The cause for concern is clear: increased shipping costs will have repercussions upon all facets of the countries' economies, from exports of cocoa to imports of containerised consumer goods.
However, it should be noted that the scale of the problem has been challenged by some bodies in Nigeria; Benedict Ayade, a member of the Nigerian Senate Committee on Marine Transport has contested some of the findings of the Piracy Reporting Centre, believing that the issue has been exaggerated, and that Nigeria should be in the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to defend itself: 'If we were in the IMO, we will play a very major role in evaluating the risk levels that have been attributed to the Gulf of Guinea.'