Nigeria pirates “an extension of a land problem”

Attacks at sea in the Gulf of Guinea were generally conducted by criminal groups based in the Niger Delta, according to an article by Dirk Siebels in locally based Economic Times.

He said that throughout the region there was an ample supply of foot soldiers and camps in remote locations where hostages could be held during negotiations, which was a prerequisite for a lucrative business model.

Siebels said that highlighting the direct link with Nigeria was important. Neighbouring countries were unable to solve the problem unless security on land in the Niger Delta improved. On the other hand, spikes in attacks were possible at any time.

For operators of merchant ships, the threat level could change within weeks, depending on factors such as weather, changes in traffic patterns or naval operations as well as the general situation on land in certain areas in the Niger Delta. While pirate attacks were particularly visible, other concerns, such as fuel smuggling, illegal fishing or unregulated shipments of pharmaceuticals like Tramadol, were usually more pressing for government agencies.

Siebels noted that there was not really any consensus on figures.

This mattered because shipping companies made commercial decisions based on official statistics, and budgets for security agencies were allocated depending on the scope and scale of the problem. While human and financial resources were scarce, and maritime security was generally regarded as less important than land-based security challenges (which directly affected domestic populations), Siebels said that insecurity at sea had a significant economic impact by hurting activities related to the maritime environment. “Maritime business plans therefore must include security-related expenditures for navies, coastguards and other government agencies. These are needed to maximise the potential of the maritime environment. This, in turn, would show that better maritime security has direct benefits for economic growth and development”, he said