· Piracy to increase in Nigeria, Togo, Gabon

The European Union (EU) has disclosed its commitment towards extending the Coordinated Maritime Presences (CMP) programme, enabling it to continue to deploy its members’ warships to the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) to stem piracy in the region.

The EU, in an External Action Service memo, addressed to the Political and Security Committee, stated that the Gulf of Guinea has continued to be particularly dangerous for seafarers. It noted that none of the coastal navies, with the partial exception of Nigeria, can operate the required high-sea patrol boats to respond to attacks.

This followed the review of the CMP pilot programme in which member states have been deploying warships to the region over the last two years. The EU expressed the need to maintain its presence, considering the ongoing threat of piracy and other illegal activities in the region.

The bloc is proposing a two-year extension of the CMP mandates, starting from January this year and has outlined deployments of Danish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish warships into the region.

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According to the EU, Denmark will patrol West Africa’s waters for four months; Spain, seven and a half months; France for 11 months, Italy for eight months and Portugal for three and half months.

The deployment will ensure a continuous EU presence in the Gulf of Guinea with at least one ship in the area.

The EU added that West Africa’s coastal navies’ response to the threats on the high seas is not always a possibility or a priority.

Recall that the Gulf of Guinea experienced a nearly 50 per cent increase in kidnapping for ransom between 2018 and 2019, and around 10 per cent increase between 2019 and 2020. Although the region accounts for just over 95 per cent of all kidnappings for ransom at sea, the number of incidents in piracy and armed robbery remained consistently lower in 2021 than in 2019 or 2020.

The EU believes that the risks of pirate activity this year remain high, mainly in the coastal waters of Togo and Gabon, with Nigeria as the centre of gravity.

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“Possible attacks might focus on targets closer to the Niger Delta, changing the modus operandi in light of increased naval presence. Pirates might start operating closer to their place of origin, enabling them to flee if being intercepted.

“This result could be assessed as a consequence, on the one hand, of the efforts made by regional navies and security agencies and, on the other hand, the increased and permanent presence of international assets in the area,” the EU memo noted.

The EU launched the CMP in 2019 and commenced its implementation a year later, responding to urgent pleas from European shipping interests. Last year, five-member states deployed naval ships in the region, granting the continuous presence of at least one ship throughout the year.

The bloc believes that the pilot programme has proven that the CMP concept can be an effective and useful instrument to contribute to maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.

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