West Africa - SahelBlog Analysismaritime piracy

Pirates love the Gulf of Guinea. The most dangerous area

(B2) The latest report published by the MICA center is clear: the Gulf of Guinea is one of the most dangerous areas in the world. He took over in the hit parade of the danger of the Somali coast

Anti-piracy exercise aboard the Aviso Premier Maitre in 2013 (Credit: DICOD / EMA – Archives B2)

This maritime piracy observation center has been established in Brest within the maritime prefecture since 2016. It monitors a large part of the world's seas: Gulf of Guinea (GOG), Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean (MSCHOA) and other seas.

One robbery or attack every three days

114 events took place this year, in the Gulf of Guinea, according to the Annual Report published by the Mica Center early January. They are broken down into 21 boardings (pirated boat), 30 attacks, 18 approaches and 45 thefts (1). The pirates' objective remains the same: plunder and human hostages who will then be exchanged for ransom. We remain essentially on the same figures as in 2019: 111 events (26 hacks and 25 attacks). This confirms a high level of risk, but also a certain halt to progression. (to discover the Mica center see our report)

The Evolution of Pirate Range

The pirates, who concentrated their action on the bottom of the gulf until 2019, are now more daring with " some raids confirmed over 400 nautical miles and collisions over 100 nautical miles from the coast according to the report (*). And the catchment area now extends from Ghana to Equatorial Guinea ". The same goes for acts of banditry and theft, carried out on ships at anchor. The risk now extends from Guinea Conakry to Angola. A large part of the West African coast is now affected.

A worrying number of hostage-takings

The number of acts of kidnapping in the Gulf of Guinea, whose increase has been significant since 2017, remains worrying » insist the guys from the Mica Center. In total, 142 people were taken hostage in 2020. That is to say a figure essentially identical to that of 2019 (146). Hostage-taking was concentrated in the spring and at the end of the year. If the first three months of 2020 were relatively calm, the spring was turbulent with a total of 65 hostages kidnapped between April and July and an upsurge in November.

An average of 30 days of detention

The average number of hostages per act is 5,6 with a maximum of 14, observed during the month of November. Acts of kidnapping constitute 23% of all events. The hostages do not stay in the hands of the pirates for long. The objective for them is to obtain a ransom as quickly as possible. The average length of detention is 30 days this year (excluding record cases of 149 days).

The most dangerous area

Conclusion: “ Despite the efforts of Nigeria and the countries bordering States, the Gulf of Guinea remains the most dangerous area in the world and acts of piracy now extend from the coast of Ghana to the coast of Equatorial Guinea » summarizes Admiral Pierre Vandier, the Chief of Staff of the French Navy. And the two recent attacks that occurred in January, one of which ended in a particularly violent collision (MV Mozart) prove it.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

  1. a certain number of attacks are defeated. This is to be credited to the improvement of alert procedures between the merchant navy and the coast guard and the navy of the neighboring countries, as well as their training. This forces hackers to repeat their actions several times before achieving their goals.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).