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Ghana’s minister of information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, has called for an international response to the Gulf of Guinea piracy problem, which is costing regional economies $2bn a year, according to a recent report.

Ninety five percent of all kidnappings in 2020 occurred in the region, with 27 out of 28 incidents in African coastal waters of the Gulf, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report.

Pirates of the Gulf of Guinea: A Cost Analysis for Coastal States was published last week and seeks to quantify the regional costs as well as the losses imposed on international companies, including vessel operators.

The issue came to the fore this week with the kidnapping of six crew from the Tonsberg, owned by Greece’s Technomar, in the Gulf of Guinea, with the pirates and victims last seen heading to what is considered a piracy centre in Nigeria.

According to the report, some $5m is extorted or stolen every year by pirates, with some $4m coming from “non-African entities seeking the release of non-African hostages”.

“These low direct costs to African nations have created the perception among some that Gulf of Guinea piracy and armed robbery are greater problems for international shipping companies and foreign seafarers than they are for African nations,” says the UNODC report.

It says that the attacks happen in Africa, “but they do not typically happen to Africa”, explaining: “Gulf of Guinea waters are crime scenes, but Gulf of Guinea nations are not the primary victims. The implication is that those paying ransoms and suffering direct financial losses have the most at stake.”

However, with piracy costing Gulf of Guinea nations $2bn, the actual costs to regional economies is far higher.

Meanwhile, the Stable Seas Report was jointly released Ghana and Norway, with both nations set to take up seats on the UN Security Council in January. Mr Oppong Nkrumah said Ghana would push for more effective action in the Gulf.

He was reported in the Ghana Business Review, saying: “The piracy phenomenon should not be left for countries along the Gulf of Guinea to deal with, stressing that what affects one region or continent affects the entire world.”

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which tracks pirate activity globally, reported last year that the region accounted for 95% of all kidnappings at sea, with a record 130 crew members kidnapped during 22 separate incidents.

Munro Anderson, of security consultancy Dryad Global, argues that there is a role for the international community in supporting regional states in combatting piracy. However, he asked what exactly is that role and who would take it on, suggesting the complexities of cross-border collaboration could undermine such action.

“Currently we see states operating under sovereign mandates offshore and engaging in bi-lateral capacity building initiatives, yet historically the best successes have been achieved through the vehicle of international organisational support.

“The EU CMP [coordinated maritime presences] is such an initiative that may yet yield a more permanent and co-ordinated support, however there are a number of integration issues that must first be resolved. Beyond the offshore domain, it is vital that a focus remains on solving the endemic causes of piracy on shore.

“The UNODC already provides considerable support in this area, yet more can be done to resolve the conditions under which piracy flourishes.”

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