As Somali pirates lay low, West Africa’s waters are now the continent’s most dangerous

The Somali coast is no longer the most dangerous in the world.
The Somali coast is no longer the most dangerous in the world.
Image: Reuters/Feisal Omar
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For the better part of a decade, the threat of piracy in Somali waters made the area the world’s most dangerous for seafarers. But a new report by the non-profit Oceans Beyond Pirates (OBP) shows that piracy in the West Indian Ocean near Somalia has dropped to historic lows. Instead, it’s West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea that shipowners now need to worry about, given an uptick in violence and pirate activity in those waters.

OBP attributes the drop in piracy around Somalia to fewer ”safe haven” areas where pirates are able to hold hostages for lengthy periods pending ransom payments. More robust sea patrols and “shifts in support on the ground” have reduced these havens significantly in recent years, the report says. Over the past six years, there has been a 90% drop in the number of hostages taken by Somali pirates:

Meanwhile, in the Gulf of Guinea off West Africa, increased piracy has been triggered by a number of factors. Following a dip in the price of oil, targeting tankers is no longer as lucrative. As a result, pirates in the region are now more focused on kidnap-for-ransom attacks:

In total, more than 1,000 seafarers were subject to attacks in the Gulf of Guinea last year—four times more than in the West Indian Ocean:

Governments and companies aren’t spending as much to protect the Gulf of Guinea as they are in the waters off Somalia’s coast. Naval patrols, bolstered boats, private security, and other measures added up to $1.3 billion in the West Indian Ocean last year, almost double the $720 million spent in the Gulf of Guinea.