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Pirates: history repeating?

 


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Piracy is becoming more of an international issue in recent years, as it does not seem to stop expanding its area of influence beyond the Horn of Africa, according to the latest news coming from the Western African Coast. International bodies are registering an increasing rate of ships seized by pirates operating in the Gulf of Guinea, other strategic area of interest for maritime operations. The Gulf of Guinea represents a key zone for internal commerce as well as international one, in line with the increased importance given to countries such as Ivory Coast, Angola and Cameroon, which, along with Nigeria, have experienced a boost in their export of cocoa, oil and other natural resources.

It would be in some ways incorrect to consider the cases of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea similar to the ones taking place off the Somali coast.

The latter is in fact well-known for the frequency of pirates’ attacks, which have made it an off-limits zone. Moreover, Somali pirates are highly organised, with a military structure and a pirate stock exchange that guarantees liquidity for their investments in weapons and technicians, and tend to hijack ships with the aim of getting ransom. Whereas, on the west coast, pirates work in not such well structured criminal organisations and seek ways for stealing cargoes rather than demanding ransoms.

It is thought that majority of the attacks in the area have not been made public due to the fact that they have taken place in national waters rather than international ones, reason why many countries try to keep rumours down as to avoid negative publicity which could discourage commerce with these countries. In fact, it seem clear that the 27 attacks reported during the first six months of 2011 represent only a small portion of the actual number of them, even though still far from the figures in the Indian Ocean.

International organisations are inspecting the piracy cases and have started planning ways in order to implement a higher degree of maritime security , training and support for local police forces. These measures have been set in an attempt to act effectively and stop the proliferation of organised criminal organisations as in the case of Somalia. The good news would be given by the fact that the countries in the western coast of Africa appear to be stronger and more efficient internally, meaning that a higher degree of control and prevention is more likely to happen. However, even though not yet considered a highly risky zone, it would be essential to adequately control the entire area and make sure that the phenomenon remains isolated, avoiding the risk of a proliferation that could hugely affect the international trade and the economy of a continent that is far from being recovered and that cannot afford that these events could stop its socio-economic development.

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