Thursday, June 27, 2013
West and central African nations have agreed to
create a regional centre for co-ordinating the fight against a sharp rise in
piracy in the Gulf of Guinea that is jeopardising the shipping of commodities
in the region.
The Gulf of Guinea, which includes Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory
Coast, is a major source of oil and cocoa and increasingly metals for world
Pirate attacks in the region, mainly carried out by armed
Nigerian gangs, have almost doubled from last year, jacking up insurance costs.
The main purpose of the new centre, to be based in Cameroon,
will be intelligence gathering and research, according to an agreement signed
at a summit of regional leaders in the Cameroonian capital Yaounde.
"No country can withstand the growing challenges
individually. That is why we agreed to put our efforts together to end the
illicit activities in the Gulf of Guinea," Chad's President Idriss Deby,
who chairs the Economic Community of Central African States, told a news
West and Central African governments agreed to fund the
centre but they also appealed to international donors and Western governments
for financial assistance, a statement issued after the meeting said.
Intelligence from the centre would be shared among regional
governments, whose leaders also signed a non-binding code of ethics on the
prevention of maritime crime, the statement said.
Data from watchdog the International Maritime Bureau showed
there had been 67 attacks in the Gulf of Guinea from January until mid-June,
versus 34 in the same period last year.
International navies are not actively engaged in
counter-piracy missions in the region, unlike in the waters off Somalia, the
piracy hotspot on the other side of the continent.
A study by advocacy group Oceans Beyond Piracy in June
estimated piracy in the Gulf of Guinea cost the world economy between $740m and
$950m last year and the cost is expected to rise in 2013.
The number of attacks in Somalia has fallen markedly since
2011 thanks to tougher security aboard ships and the increased Western naval patrols.
However, piracy emanating from the Horn of Africa nation may
still cost the world economy about $18bn a year, the World Bank said in