Criminal activity perpetrated at sea is often directed at vessels or maritime structures, but also includes the transportation of illicit substances or trafficking in persons by organized transnational criminal networks. In its violent forms, it is a constant menace to the security of navigation and to the physical integrity and life of seamen.

In West and Central Africa, and particularly in the Gulf of Guinea (home to some of the biggest offshore oilfields in the world), maritime crime involves the hijacking of petrochemical tankers and attacks on other oil and petroleum storage and transportation platforms. The number of pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea increases each year.

Assessments and fact-finding missions by UNODC in the region determined that no State bordering the Gulf of Guinea possesses the necessary combination of jurisdictional provisions, offence-creating legislation, and judicial capacity needed to undertake prosecutions against piracy.


Following the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 2018 (2011) and 2039 (2012), UNODC developed a strategic framework to enhance the regional capacities aimed at tackling piracy and armed robbery against vessels. The UNODC Global Maritime Crime Programme (GMCP) includes the UNODC Maritime Crime Programme Strategy in Relation to Piracy, Armed Robbery Against Vessels, and Maritime Crime in the Gulf of Guinea Region.

UNODC particularly assists in:

  • Mapping the maritime risk situation and identifying areas for regional coordination and capacity building support
  • Collaborating with regional stakeholders with the aim of better coordinating the fight against maritime crime
  • Advocating for the adoption and implementation of UN standards and norms on maritime crime and piracy
  • Providing assistance to criminal justice capacity building in order to help States carry out effective maritime law enforcement and helping victims of maritime crime

For more information:

Maritime Crime and Piracy in West and Central Africa

2014 UNODC Maritime Crime Programme Annual Report

UN Convention on the Law of the Sea