Pirates want your oil and they are smart enough to get it

Increased security has forced pirates to rethink their strategy for obtaining oil, Alic writes, and they have repeatedly demonstrated that they are capable of moving with the times.

Jon Gambrell/AP/File
A crew of US sailors and Nigerian special forces fighters prepares to board the NNS Burutu for a training exercise off the Nigerian coast. Nigeria’s efforts to thwart piracy have resulted in a shift of attacks further east into the Gulf of Guinea, off the coast of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, Alic writes.

Militant groups in the Sahel want kidnapping victims for ransom, or South American cocaine for smuggling, but Gulf of Guinea pirates just want oil.

Western oil and gas companies operating in North and West Africa should be on high alert because their personnel just became much more valuable kidnapping victims whose ransoms will have gone up since the French intervention in Mali.

This is how it works with militant organized crime groups on land, across the Sahel, but on the high seas, things work differently. Pirates in the Gulf of Guinea are no longer trading in people, they’re trading in oil.

Here’s what’s happened:  A regional and Western security response has forced pirates to rethink their strategy, and they have repeatedly demonstrated that they are capable of moving with the times, so to speak. 

In geographical terms, boosted security hasn’t stymied piracy; it’s only shifted it. Nigeria’s efforts to thwart piracy have resulted in a shift of attacks further east into the Gulf of Guinea, off the coast of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, for instance. Before that, increased security off the Somali coast shifted things to West African coastal venues. The Indian Ocean remains a pirates’ playground and their capabilities have metamorphosed along with improvements in security. (Related article: Africa No.1 Risk Area for Oil Tankers)

“Mother ships” give them more geographical reach and mobility so they no longer need to return to a base on shore during a hijacking operation. The further navies push them from the coast, the more adept the pirates become at launching attacks from further into the Indian Ocean.

Private vessels have also adopted better (very expensive) security measures, which include armed personnel.

So too has the pirates agenda changed from one of kidnapping crew or ships for ransom to one in which they hijack the vessel, hold the crew hostage while they unload the oil cargo and then release it.

Here’s one more thing to consider: The number of hijackings has actual decreased over the past several years—a situation largely attributed to ramped up security in Somalia. (For 2012 there were 27 reported pirate attacks of Nigeria’s coast—higher than the past two years but also 50% lower than in 2007). But the damage is the same, if not worse. This is another metamorphosis.

Writing for Maritime-executive.com, James Bridger of Delex Systems, Inc. notes: “Heightened security in the Nigerian littoral appears to have had a Darwinian effect on maritime criminals, as more sophisticated and politically connected syndicates have thrived at the relative expense of opportunistic ‘smash and grab’ pirates.”

What Bridger is saying is that while there may be a decline in the actual number of pirate attacks today, the pirates themselves are getting better and what they do and the entire modus operandi is much more sophisticated.

Now that the pirates are stealing oil rather than kidnapping people for ransom, the question is “where does this oil go?”

It’s a question that requires an uncomfortable examination of collusion. (Related article: Why has US Oil Consumption Steadily Fallen since 2004?)

According to Bridger, “hijacking a product tanker and pilfering vast quantities of fuel over several days requires a high degree of organization and sophistication.”

He points to testimonial evidence that the pirates have very powerful sponsors, including—in Nigeria’s case—government officials and oil industry executives “who provide advance payment and information about the cargo, route and security details of ships that have been targeted.” Getting rid of the oil on the black market requires an organized oil mafia comprised of key insiders who can facilitate such a deal and ensure its storage in illicit depots, most of which are believed to be in Nigeria.

This is now clearly a transnational business that stretches from Nigeria and engulfs Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, Togo, Ghana …

This is what a French ship (Luxembourg-flagged) has experienced recently. The tanker was hijacked last weekend and has now been released and its crew is safe, but this was the third hijacking in as many weeks over Cote d’Ivoire.  And the pirates are coming from Nigeria.

Original source: http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Pirates-Want-Your-Oil-and-Theyre-Smart-Enough-to-Get-It.html

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.