UN welcomes drop in piracy in Gulf of Guinea, but sees new threat

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A senior United Nations official on Tuesday welcomed a substantial decrease in piracy incidents this year in the Gulf of Guinea, the world’s main hotspot for such attacks, but warned that pirate groups could target more lucrative maritime crimes .

“The threat of piracy has cost the region lives, stability and more than $1.9 billion in financial losses a year,” Ghada Waly, executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, told the UN Security Council. “We must prevent the threat from taking on a different form.”

According to new UNODC research, pirates may engage in criminal oil bunkering — delivering fuel to ships — as well as theft and smuggling, Waly said.

Law enforcement agencies in the 19 countries bordering the Gulf of Guinea need support to combat, among other things, “various forms of trafficking and illegal oil refining, as well as illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing,” she said.

To close opportunities for criminals at sea, the UNODC is proposing that the region develop a framework to expand cooperation between the countries of the Gulf of Guinea, she said.

In a report to the Security Council circulated Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the number of piracy and armed robbery cases in the Gulf of Guinea, including kidnappings for ransom, fell from 123 in 2020 to 45 in 2021.

This trend has continued into 2022, with the Inter-Regional Coordination Center reporting 16 incidents of maritime crime between January and June, the UN chief said. Data from the International Maritime Organization’s Integrated Shipping Information System supports that trend, showing 13 incidents of piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea over the same period.

Guterres said a number of factors have helped, including piracy convictions in Nigeria and Togo last year and what he called the “deterrent effects” of increased naval patrols by Nigeria and numerous other countries from the region and around the world.

Africa-focused Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Martha Pobee reiterated Waly’s concern that criminal networks have recently shifted from piracy to other forms of maritime crime, which she says are “probably seen as both less risky and considered more profitable”. .”

It is therefore “absolutely necessary,” she said, for regional groups to accelerate their efforts to establish “a stable and safe maritime environment” in the Gulf of Guinea.

Pobee said it’s also important to address the social and economic conditions that make the region ripe for maritime crimes, such as youth unemployment and inadequate access to public services.

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