Pirates are expanding in West Africa, threatening offshore oil storage

Pirates are expanding in West Africa, threatening offshore oil storage


A worker inspect services on an upstream oil drilling system at the Whole oil platform at Amenem, 35 kilometers away from Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta in 2009.

Pius Utomi Ekpei | AFP | Getty Photos

As international oil companies (IOCs) grapple with a historic plunge in crude charges, a increase in piracy is also poised to threaten provide chains.

The first quarter of 2020 saw a spike in piracy about the environment, with 47 assaults as opposed to 38 for the exact same time period past 12 months, in accordance to the Worldwide Maritime Bureau (IMB).

The Gulf of Guinea, a critical production hub surrounded by 8 oil exporting countries in West Africa, has emerged as a worldwide scorching location, accounting for 21 attacks so significantly this 12 months and 90% of all kidnappings at sea in 2019.

Most attacks continue to occur in Nigerian waters, but piracy is expected to rise in 2020 and 2021 and broaden further into neighboring states, posing severe issues for shipping and delivery and intercontinental oil providers, according to research by political danger consultancy Verisk Maplecroft.

The amount of crew kidnapped off the Gulf of Guinea climbed 50% to 121 in 2019, up from 78 in 2018, and the Gulf has now surpassed a lot more effectively-acknowledged spots this kind of as the Strait of Malacca – a waterway which separates Malaysia and Singapore from Indonesia – to grow to be the world-wide hotspot.

“This craze will go on into 2020 and into 2021 as regional stability forces, hampered by protection very hot spots throughout the continent, and a deficiency of enough machines, continue to be unable to effectively deal with piracy,” Alexandre Raymakers, senior Africa analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, explained in a analysis note.

“The prospect of intercontinental help is equally distant as global shipping and delivery routes prevent the Gulf of Guinea. Both equally regional transport and oil and gasoline operators should really hope further more disruptions to source chains, export routes and enhanced expenses as extra ransom payments will be required to liberate crews.”

All over 60% of incidents in 2019 occurred in Nigerian territorial waters, specially in the parts encompassing the Niger Delta and, to a lesser extent, the delivery hub of the Port of Lagos. Raymakers highlighted that the socio-economic elements underpinning these incidents have been not likely to transform.

Fighters with the Motion for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) raise their riffles to celebrate news of a productive procedure by their colleagues against the Nigerian army in the Niger Delta on September 17, 2008.


“Pushed by their practical experience preventing in the Delta’s secessionist armed groups and embittered by their lack of access to the oil riches about them, the location will continue to be an abundant reservoir for budding pirates,” he additional.

“Though pirates have not noticeably modified their methods, the normal payments of ransoms have possible emboldened them to search for much more eye-catching targets further more out at sea, growing their web outwards.”

On March 22, 7 crew users of the MSC Talia F had been abducted off the coastline of Gabon, and while most of the spike in cases is envisioned in Nigerian waters, Verisk Maplecroft analysts also anticipate upticks in the waters all around Togo, Benin, Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and to a lesser extent Ghana.

Threats to the oil field

Even though pirates traditionally confined their functions to raiding oil tankers in buy to provide their keep on the black sector, the collapse of oil price ranges in 2015 compelled them to alter their tactic, refocusing their attempts on abducting crews for ransom, Raymakers highlighted.

Unlike their Somali counterparts, pirates in the Delta do not have use of secured ports or beaching parts for captured ships, which boundaries their capability to maintain a vessel or its contents for ransom and suggests operators in the location as a result seldom reduce ships or cargo. Nevertheless, they do encounter delays and enhanced fees because of to the disappearance of the ship’s crews and subsequent ransom payments.

“IOCs like Shell, ExxonMobil, Full, Chevron and Eni running out of Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria are especially at chance of suffering from sporadic still hugely disruptive scenarios of piracy in their source chains,” Raymakers explained.

“Whilst quite a few have realized classes from producing detailed stability structures in order to guard their belongings and staff in Nigeria, scaled-down source and services companies will be extremely exposed to increasing piracy pitfalls.”

The Egina floating output storage and offloading vessel, the greatest of its form in Nigeria, is berthed in Lagos harbor on February 23, 2017.

Stefan Heunis | AFP | Getty Illustrations or photos

Presented the recent collapse in international oil selling prices owing to falling desire, Verisk anticipates that pirates are likely to attempt to board static tankers used as offshore storage facilities for unsold production. The ships’ crews and cargo symbolize “great and relatively very simple targets for pirates,” the report explained.

The indiscriminate nature of abductions usually means pirates are very likely to concentrate on IOCs’ source chains and oil shipments leaving export terminals in the Niger Delta, as evidenced by the abduction of seven crew associates on the ExxonMobil-contracted source vessel Zaro off the coast of Equatorial Guinea in December 2019.

IOCs will also have to contend with the danger that pirates will seek to abduct personnel, significantly expatriates, straight from oil platforms in the Niger Delta.

“The kidnapping of a few oil staff from a Chevron oil system in Ogbele in April 2019 highlights the simplicity and pace with which these kinds of an operation can be performed,” Raymakers mentioned.

“Certainly, pirates have quick entry to significant pace crafts and a myriad of small arms offering them the firepower and agility to carry out these kinds of functions.”


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