The Gulf of Guinea, the vast expanse of ocean that can be traced west from coastal areas stretching from Cape Verde to Angola, has become one of the most perilous bodies of water in the world. The little-known Gulf borders 16 different countries, serves as a crucial access point for landlocked countries like Mali, Chad, and Burkina Faso, and has helped facilitate West Africa’s steadily climbing national economies.
Billions of dollars’ worth of goods, such as cocoa and timber, are shipped through the Gulf of Guinea yearly and countries in the region, such as Nigeria and Angola, are among the top ten oil exporters in the world. Exporting newly tapped energy resources for global distribution requires shipment through Gulf ports, thereby necessitating rapid expansion of shipping capacities.
There is, however, an impediment to current and future shipments of oil, raw materials, and goods: the Gulf of Guinea is crawling with pirates.
Since the early 2000s, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea has been on an upswing. There has been a recent shift in focus, however, in pirates’ activities. Previously, pirates focused almost exclusively on oil cargoes, taking control of ships and steering them to a remote location in order to siphon off cargo to another vessel or storage facility. The stolen oil was then refined and sold on the black market. More recently, due in large part to a crack-down on illegal oil refineries and a drop in the global price of oil, pirates have shifted to the tried and true practice of kidnapping for ransom.
Although there has been a change in the nature of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, the root causes–corruption, income inequality, and lack of development–remain. Thus piracy in the Gulf of Guinea will likely continue to persist for the foreseeable future, causing safety concerns as well as increased insurance rates and transit time that may significantly disrupt the global supply chain.
LEVICK Business Intelligence believes that the often-forgotten Gulf of Guinea should remain a focus for any company that sends or receives shipments internationally, because understanding the drivers of illicit activities can help companies anticipate market changes before they occur, and plan their responses, and their recovery, accordingly.
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