Maritime Crime Programme - West Africa 

In 2014 the Maritime Crime Programme expanded its work beyond the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean to address maritime crime challenges in West Africa, specifically in the Gulf of Guinea region.

While piracy off the Horn of African has been steadily declining over the last two years, there has simultaneously been a significant rise in piracy, armed robbery against vessels, and other maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea region.

"Maritime Piracy has generated renewed attention in the Gulf of Guinea, with 22 pirate attacks occurring off the coast of Benin in 2011. In 2012, Togo became the new hotspot for attacks on petroleum tankers. These vessels are attacked because there is a booming black market for fuel in West Africa." (see: UNODC Threat Assessment for West Africa)   

The modus operandi for piracy attacks in the Gulf of Guinea is distinct from typical piracy attacks off the Horn of Africa. While piracy off the Horn of Africa has primarily involved armed attacks on commercial vessels with a view to hijacking the vessel and taking the crew hostage for ransom, attacks in West Africa have primarily taken the form of 'oil bunkering'. Oil tankers are attacked and oil is siphoned from the vessel on-site, before being sold on the black market.

Despite the differences in the 'piracy models' on the West and East coasts of Africa, UNODC's experience in maritime capacity building and regional coordination, and the lessons learned from the East Africa piracy experience, make the Maritime Crime Programme uniquely placed to assist States address the challenges in the Gulf of Guinea.

 Following United Nations Security Council Resolutions 2018 (2011) and 2039 (2012) the Maritime Crime Programme developed its "Strategy in Relation to Piracy, Armed Robbery Against Vessels, and Maritime Crime in the Gulf of Guinea Region" . The core focus of the Strategy is criminal justice capacity building, geared at enhancing capacity of states to carry out effective maritime law enforcement.

UNODC started its work in West Africa with a workshop for law enforcement and legal officials from the Gulf of Guinea region, to map the maritime risk situation and identify areas for regional coordination and capacity building support.

* figures obtained from the International Maritime Organization

As a response to priorities identified during the initial mapping phase, the first step in the MCP's West Africa programming is conducting legal framework assessments to determine whether States have the necessary laws in place to enable them to effectively counter maritime crime through appropriate criminal justice mechanisms.

Alongside the framework assessment, the MCP will be providing assistance to maritime law enforcement, as well as organising learning exchanges between States. UNODC has also been active in collaborating and cooperating with other partners operating in the region, with the aim of better coordinating activities in countering crimes at sea in the Gulf of Guinea region.