Gulf Of Guinea Piracy Exceeded Somalia In H1 2013

In the first half of 2013, the Gulf of Guinea for the first time experienced more pirate attacks than the waters in which Somali pirates operate, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB). BMI believes that shipping companies will become ever more wary of serving the West African countries affected, and will be increasing surcharges to shippers in the region to cover rising war risk insurance premiums. By contrast, Somalia is making a return to shipping companies’ rotations, with Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) becoming the first major liner firm to announce that it was entering Mogadishu.

Piracy emanating from Somalia continues to fall dramatically. BMI examined this phenomenon in detail in April (see our online service, ‘Stability Onshore Increases Stability Offshore’, April 24). We noted how the improving situation in Somalia had resulted in pirate attacks declining sharply, 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, armed guards are now very common on vessels, best practice guidelines are being followed, and naval patrols are continuing. In 2012, pirate attacks from Somalia fell for the first time, with only 75 incidents reported over the year, down 68.2% from 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 incidents in the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean) having amounted to just eight. This compares with 69 in the first half of 2012 and 143 in the first half of 2011.

By contrast, pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea continue to grow. Attacks in the region had fallen from 24 in H1 2008 to just 12 in H1 2010. However, by H1 2012, they had climbed back 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 the 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 of piracy. 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.