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Gulf of Guinea Guard

Piracy costs African countries in the Gulf of Guinea over $500 million annually in what is currently the world’s maritime piracy hotspot. With several attacks and kidnappings each year, much of that cost is tied not to the value of stolen ships or cargo but related to anti-piracy measures, according to a December 2021 study by Stable Seas, a transnational maritime security research organisation.

“For every $1 pirates steal or extort from African victims, Gulf of Guinea governments spend around $524 on counter-piracy efforts,” the report says. Meanwhile, piracy gains are considerably lower, estimated at only about $5 million a year. The vast majority – $4 million – comes from ransoms paid by non-African entities seeking the release of non-African hostages. Oil theft was a lucrative business model that netted pirates up to $25 million a year in the early 2010s, but far more difficult to pull off versus the swift raids being conducted now.

Ransoms for non-African seafarers have climbed sharply in recent years, more than doubling from an average of $15,000 per non-African hostage in 2014, to as much as $40,000 in 2019. In comparison, West African fisher and oil worker ransoms have remained between $3,000-4,000 or as low as $1,000 per person.

Two strategic initiatives that EUCOM continues to develop and expand are Caspian Guard and the Gulf of Guinea Guard. These are two engagements that demonstrate a regional approach towards establishing stability and security in relatively remote areas within the theater susceptible to transnational threats.

EUCOM is looking to enhance operations in the ungoverned regions of Africa. The Gulf of Guinea, for example, is an area where a Navy presence would constitute a strong message. Security, stability, and reconstruction operations are needed in this important region. The Gulf of Guinea is poised to grow in strategic importance for the United States, and senior military and diplomatic officials are reportedly in advanced discussions with São Tomé e Principe about establishing a regional US Navy base there.

The nations of the Gulf of Guinea -- Nigeria, Angola, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Sao Tome and Principe -- are and will remain critical to US energy security. They are a key contributor to the diversity of global oil supply.

As of 2004 Africa as a whole produced nearly nine million barrels of oil per day, with approximately 4.7 million barrels per day coming from West Africa. African oil production accounted for approximately 11 percent of the world's oil supply. Africa supplied approximately 18 percent of US net oil imports, and both Nigeria and Angola were among the top 10 suppliers of oil to the United States. US dependence on oil from Africa is expected to rise in the future as new fields are brought on line.

The Gulf of Guinea Guard is a EUCOM initiative to assist countries in the Gulf Of Guinea in protecting their natural resources and achieving long-term security and stability. The focus of this initiative is to prevent the region's political, economic, and social issues from becoming regional stability problems requiring international involvement.

The US could provide the region with additional naval vessels, radar and communications equipment, coastguard training and co-ordination. One proposed initiative is a radar surveillance network over the Gulf of Guinea. The use of radar is very rare in West Africa. The absence of radar is strongly felt. Authorities are frequently informed of violations of their airspace by pilots who come across illegal traffic. They are also aware that aircraft operators can operate with impunity in their sphere of sovereignty, without their knowledge. At times, it is local authorities or even local individuals who contact them to inform them of an overflight. The military admit that they do not have the means to intercept such traffic, a common practice elsewhere.

NAVEUR hosted the first Gulf of Guinea Maritime Security Conference in October 2004, which provided momentum to this ongoing initiative.About 1,400 Sailors and Marines aboard USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) participating in the 2005 Gulf of Guinea Deployment that began 25 Jan. 2005. Marine Corps Col. Barry Cronin, Commander of Task Group 60.5, led the mission.

Improving quality of life for the citizens in the West African region was an objective for Emory S. Land Sailors. Community relations (COMREL) projects, including renovating local schools, were conducted during each port visit. The ship's repair department stayed busy fixing and refurbishing host nation navy vessels and conducting training on a variety of repair topics.

The Emory S. Land's repair department provided technical assistance to help the Cameroon Navy troubleshoot repair needs for patrol craft, jet drives, diesel fuel systems, air conditioning systems and various electrical systems. On-the-job training was provided in machining, welding, weld inspection, motor rewind, safety, quality assurance, and maintenance management.

Bad weather and distant anchorage limited the ability to get Sailors ashore for liberty in Cameroon, although repair and COMREL projects were completed. Another challenge occurred during transit through southern waters in the region, when sea growth, shells, and debris clogged seawater suction drains. Extra cleaning was scheduled during each watch to quickly eliminate the problem.

The purpose of the deployment is to enhance security cooperation between the US and participating Gulf of Guinea nations by providing the opportunity to interact and improve familiarization with how the Navy operates in real-world environments.

This deployment is similar in nature to the regularly-scheduled West African training cruises conducted since 1978. The 2005 Gulf of Guinea Deployment included multiple security training and maritime operations. The familiarization efforts focus on navigation and seamanship, search and rescue, antiterrorism force protection, and HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.

The deployment was a direct result of the 2004 Gulf of Guinea Maritime Security Conference held in Naples, Italy, in October. The conference addressed regional common interests, challenges and threats for the 17 navies that participated. Nation participants and observers in the 2005 deployment include Nigeria, Gabon, Ghana, Cameroon, Togo, Benin, and Sao Tome and Principe -- all participants in the Naples conference. Several theater ally counties have been invited to observe the deployment.

USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) Sailors enjoyed a well-deserved break in Rota, Spain, in March after two months of Gulf of Guinea operations in Western Africa, enhancing security cooperation between the United States and participating Gulf of Guinea nations. The ship then headed toward its homeport in La Maddalena, Italy.

Participating in this operation were 20 foreign naval officers from Ghana, Gabon, Benin and Sao Tome, as well as France, Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom. During underway and in-port operations, foreign national riders received training in navigation and seamanship, search and rescue, antiterrorism force protection, and HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.

The Guinea Current Large Marine Ecosystem (GCLME), one of 64 such coastal ecosystems identified worldwide, includes the Gulf of Guinea and the 16 coastal countries extending from Guinea-Bissau south to Angola.

The Guinea Current Large Marine Ecosystem is characterized by its tropical climate. It owes its unity to the Guinea Current, an eastward flow that is fed by the North Equatorial Counter Current (NECC) off the Liberian coast. Climate is the primary force driving the LME, with intensive fishing as the secondary driving force. Changes in ecosystem structure and species abundance have been observed in this LME.

There is strong evidence of serious degradation in the Guinea Current coastal environment. The main pollution problems are degraded water quality, the loss of critical habitats for migratory and non-migratory species, effluents in rivers flowing into the LME, the risk of offshore spills, marine debris and beach pollution, and industrial and solid waste. The primary productivity surveys have revealed an increasing occurrence of harmful algal blooms indicating intense eutrophication and therefore excessive nutrient loading from anthropogenic sources.

The over-exploitation of transboundary and migratory fish by large, industrialized offshore foreign fleets is having a detrimental effect on artisanal fishermen as well as on those coastal communities that depend on the near shore fisheries resource for food. Local communities are literally at risk if artisanal fishing cannot proceed. This becomes particularly serious in a context of exploding demographics in the coastal areas.

Making more fish available to the 300 million people living in the region's coastal communities, and earning much-needed foreign exchange from fisheries exports are project objectives. The region manifests many symptoms of unplanned and haphazard physical development as well as the effects of population pressures. Maritime transport, agriculture, urban expansion, the offshore oil sector and tourism are important economic activities.

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Page last modified: 30-01-2022 19:08:42 ZULU