West Africa - Sahelmaritime piracyReport

In the Gulf of Guinea, more structured, bolder pirates

(B2 in Brest) Pirates in the Gulf of Guinea are tracked by the MICA Center, the Maritime Information Cooperation & Awareness Center established in Brest. We were able to review their new methods with an officer from the centre.

Map of the Gulf of Guinea (© NGV / B2)

Professional management

Pirates have adapted. " They have become more structured, organized, with on-shore logistics and sponsors. They developed a ransom business, with hostage taking. With professional management. »


African countries are not “ not yet fully autonomous ". Especially on the high seas.” They achieve good results in the port area and territorial waters. It has really fallen, especially in Nigeria. But beyond that, it's more complicated. The pirates have understood this well and are going further, towards the Sao Tome e Pricipe area, 200 nautical miles away. » The reaction time of an armed force will then be longer.

Between opportunity and target

How do they choose their target? " Sometimes it's precise. They target certain companies (NB: like the shipping company, based in New Delhi). Sometimes no. There are thus attacks of pure opportunism. » In a general view, “They monitor the areas where they are going to act. If they realize the area is being patrolled, they « let cool ».

Using the grinder to tackle the citadel

Hackers know the methods of protection and, now, do not stop there. “ All means are good. When they see a citadel, they first rush at the citadel to try to enter it. To force the door, they look for equipment on board, such as grinders to cut the door, or even arrive with their own means to force the door. They know they have little time. If they fail, they look for another boat in the area. »

The Tonsberg a turning point

In November 2021, off Nigeria, the Danes of the frigate Esbern Snare had led an assault on a pirate ship, killing four of them, wounding a fifth and capturing four others. The pirates learned a lesson from this, going further out to sea, and above all by being more aggressive.

Increased violence

A few weeks later, in December 2021, the attack on the Tonsberg — a Greek container ship sailing under the Maltese flag — constitutes ' a turning point ". They arrived on board, causing astonishment, immediately killing a member of the crew and capturing six sailors. A recommendation was issued to sailors to stash all tools and other means to force the citadel. This is part of a new BMP recommendation (best maritime practices).

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

The Gulf of Guinea, one of the most violent areas World

Even if it is not where the most incidents occur, the Gulf of Guinea has become the most violent area today. Certainly in figures, it is the Strait of Malaca which holds the record. But we are more concerned with plunder, theft. As soon as pirates see someone, they run away. In the Caribbean, it is more drug trafficking that runs the show. Instead, traffickers use pirate processes to hide drugs and disappear. Then the recovery takes place in Europe. “ A new phenomenon, narco-piracy, reported this year that we are observing » carefully at the Mica Center. In Latin America, off the coast of Peru, there is banditry - in the Calao anchorage with a little more violence than elsewhere. But we are not reaching the level that existed at the time in Somalia.

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).

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