The threat of piracy and armed robbery against vessels in the waters off West and Central Africa has loomed for decades. In 2013, the region came together to develop the Yaoundé Code of Conduct to facilitate improved information-sharing and cooperation among regional navies and law enforcement. The Yaoundé Architecture has resulted in progress against a multitude of maritime crimes, but as many of the recommended longer-term programs to build capacity in the region continue to mature, incidents of piracy and armed robbery remain persistently high.
Stable Seas supports a comprehensive and sustainable solution to maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea, based on regionally-led strategies such as the Yaoundé Code of Conduct. However, in light of a recent uptick in kidnapping incidents in the Gulf of Guinea that put seafarers and fishers at great risk, Stable Seas commissioned a range of stakeholders, led by our Senior Advisor Jon Huggins, to discuss near-term actions that could provide relief from violent attacks in the Gulf of Guinea. The working group was bounded by two assumptions: 1.) any near-term efforts should not undermine the Yaoundé Code of Conduct and supporting Architecture, and 2.) the study would only consider employment of existing capabilities and systems, as opposed to long-term capacity building.
The study identified cross-sector agreement on the threat level as a necessary precondition for success, in addition to reaching a common understanding of regional interpretations of maritime boundaries and their effect on international cooperation, private security schemes, and prosecution of detainees and a move from multilateral to multi-stakeholder cooperation, especially related to the conduct of the G7++ and/or Friends of the Gulf of Guinea fora.
Specific Recommendations from the report include:
Better incorporation of contracted state security in the Gulf of Guinea - including embarked uniformed security guards and the 150+ contracted security escort vessels manned by the Nigerian Navy
Establishment of standard protocols for information-sharing between international, regional, and national centers
Increased focus on operational coordination that can ensure regional strategies are implemented in the timeline of 6 months to 1 year
Establishment of a loose framework for cooperation supported by international partners, including pre-designated patrol zones and/or transit lanes coordinated with regional agencies
It is important to note that some near-term efforts are already underway, including an initiative to better coordinate the shipping industry and Nigerian government security measures through the Nigerian government and Industry Joint Working Group (NIWG). This initiative shows promise and is an encouraging step towards the regional multi-stakeholder framework advocated here.
In the coming weeks, Stable Seas will be publishing a more thorough analysis of these ideas and invites feedback from stakeholders, particularly operational planners from the region.