Concept note

In most recent times, maritime security issue features prominently on the agenda of international and national discourse on sustainable development, particularly the use of oceans and seas.

Background

This is in furtherance of the fact that a nexus exists between a secure maritime domain and trade facilitation among countries. The reason for this increasing attention on maritime security is the grave threats insecurity on the seas pose to international trade, socio-economic developments, the marine milieu, human safety, freedom of navigation and peace. The threats are crimes such as piracy, armed robbery at sea, trafficking of people, smuggling of illicit and dangerous goods, kidnapping, terrorism, illegal fishing and pollution. Most affected by these crimes on the sea is the maritime industry; which has been identified as very critical to global commerce and distribution of vital resources. About 90% of world trade by volume and up to 75% in value are transported by sea. The maritime industry contributes and sustains economies of both coastal and land locked countries, connecting industrial centres and markets within and beyond national borders. It is among the world’s global innovative and forward looking industries, and noted to have capacities to generate employment, value creation and spillover to other industries, making it important driving force for sustainable economic growth and positive developments.

About 90% of world trade by volume and up to 75% in value are transported by sea

For the industry to further develop its value creation potentials, continue to facilitate legitimate movement of goods and services, providing livelihoods and necessary marine resources to accelerate developments; then maritime security is very expedient.

More obvious, is the fact that the world is now looking to the seas and oceans as the new frontier for advancing economic diversification and prosperity, technological innovations and energy generation, otherwise known as the Blue Economy.

Maritime Security

Discussions on maritime security are not new, but the surge in threats to maritime security in different regions of the world has heightened the focus on it, because of its international reach and consequences. The maritime region where incidents of maritime insecurity have been reported to be prevalent is the Gulf of Guinea (GoG). About 40% of all maritime incidents reported globally in the first nine months of 2018 according to the International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) occurred within the Gulf of Guinea.

In fact, due to the rise in maritime crimes in the region, it has gained ‘notoriety as one of the most dangerous shipping lanes in the world equal if not to a greater measure’ as the straits of Malacca, South China Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The International Crisis Group (IOG) had referred to the region as ‘‘The New Danger Zone.’’

Maritime crimes occurring in the Gulf of Guinea have made it a high risk maritime region attracting war insurance premium as well as posing serious threats to the security of seafarers, ship owners, critical maritime infrastructure and stability of the region.

Extent and Economic importance of the Gulf of Guinea

The Gulf of Guinea is an area that spans West and Central regions of Africa, covering about 6000 kilometres of coastline that extends from Senegal in the north to Angola in the south and encompassing a number of sovereign coastal and landlocked states, which share diverse geographical, geological and cultural heritage.

Historically, the Gulf of Guinea has been the epicenter of economic, political, military and cultural medley, and still remains significantly relevant today.

Countries of the region are endowed with huge oil and gas deposits critical to meet global energy demand dynamics; about 70% of Africa’s oil production comes from the Gulf of Guinea and holds about 5% of the world’s total proven reserves. The number is said to increase sequel to the discovery of more hydrocarbon deposits offshore The low-sulphur crude oil from the region further raises its importance in the global energy supply and its central geographical position represents an important comparative advantage for energy supply to North America, Europe and Asia. In addition, the region is widely known to have large reserves of other mineral resources such as diamond, gold, bauxite and iron ore to mention a few.

The Gulf of Guinea is home to one of the world’s most important infrastructure: undersea intercontinental communication cables, absolutely vital to global communication.

Compared to some shipping lanes identified as chokepoints, the Gulf of Guinea’s is wider, thus not susceptible to blockades and shipping accidents with a record of less than 3% of all reported 2017 maritime accidents worldwide.

The region’s waterways serve as key navigational routes for international commerce, connecting the Far East to countries in the North and South of the Atlantic.

Extent and Economic importance of the Gulf of Guinea

It is the hub of extensive trans-Atlantic trade linking Africa with Europe and the Americas. Its geographical contiguity to Western Europe relative to the Middle East and Asia enhances the region’s comparative advantage for the movement of goods and people, through reduced costs of sea transportation. The region is home to a significant number of marine ecosystems and rain forest resources which are of interest to the global community and they include fish, fauna, flora and timber. The rain forest resources account for much of the oxygen-generating sources of the globe.

Besides the region’s openness to the Atlantic Ocean, countries of the Gulf of Guinea enjoy natural tributaries of waterways that serve not only as vectors for domestic trade but also as a natural fishing hub.

Furthermore, the region is a major source of global food stock and supply. Its boasts some of the world’s richest and abundant fisheries, a vital source of protein needed and consumed in many countries. Close to a quarter of the global protein consumption comes from this region. So are the land areas with climates conducive for the production of food and cash crops such as cocoa and coffee. The market size of the Gulf of Guinea is estimated to have about 470 million consumers and generates a gross domestic product (GDP) of $950 billion, exports of about $180.50 billion and imports of about $105.70 billion.

As a result, unemployment, poverty, inadequate legislation, weak law enforcement capacity and poor policy implementation identified as onshore root causes of maritime insecurity are rife.

In different ways, they feed to escalate the incidents of maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea. Whilst incidents of maritime insecurity are noted to have abated considerably in other maritime regions, the situation in the Gulf of Guinea seems to worsen. As reported, incidents of piracy, kidnapping, armed robbery and other crimes that occurred in the waters of the region more than doubled in 2018; accounting for all six hijackings worldwide, 13 of the 18 ships attacked, 130 of the 141 hostages taken globally, and 78 of 83 seafarers kidnapped for ransom. The present state of maritime insecurity in the region poses a fundamental security dilemma to its vital maritime domain, disrupting economic livelihood, prosperity, peace and stability of nations in the region and those of other regions as well.

Maritime Security Interventions

Recognizing the strategic role the maritime industry plays as a ‘value creator and growth engine’ in economies of nations and that maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea is not only a regional challenge but also a worldwide challenge that requires an endogenous commitment and a collective response together, several interventions at the global, continental, regional and country levels were initiated to tackle the menace of maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea.

Some of the interventions include declarations/adoptions of resolutions and maritime security strategy policy frameworks (UNSC Resolutions 2018 & 2039; AIMS 2050; EIMS), establishment of institutions (Maritime Organization of West and Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea Commission & Gulf of Guinea Guard) and capacity building/technical supports from multilateral organizations (G7++ Friends of the Gulf of Guinea) as well as Western partners/ countries such as Belgium, Britain, Denmark, France, the United States and some others.

Despite these efforts, incidents of maritime insecurity and crimes continue to threaten the geo-strategic maritime domain of the Gulf of Guinea; implicitly, the already challenged global security. Then, the interrogations: why the surge in incidents of insecurity seen in the region recently? Is it because the nature and dimension of insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea is yet to be properly understood? Are there underlying gaps in the various interventions initiated? Are there other causal factors which are yet to be identified as root causes and dealt with? Is the lack of effective regional integration and cooperation the cause for the surge? Is the absence of continuous evaluation of the situation or hiatus in international support to countries of the region responsible?

To facilitate clearer understanding of the issues, seek tailored short and long term solutions as well as coordinate efforts to strengthen regional and international collaborations to ending maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea, Nigeria will be hosting a two day Global Conference on Maritime Security and Global Trade Facilitation.

Why Nigeria is very strategic and taking the lead in this quest to end maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea is premised on some of these facts: Nigeria is the biggest economy and the most populous nation in the region as well as in Africa; accounts for 65% of cargo generated from the region and 65% of cargo coming into the Gulf of Guinea end up in Nigeria. She has huge deposit of oil and gas making it a place of international interest for energy source. Nigeria is depending greatly on the maritime industry to diversify her economy through sustainable development of her blue economy and regional economic security; thus, very interested in safe, open and secure maritime domain. Besides being the worst affected by the several insecurity incidents recorded in the Gulf of Guinea, she is very concerned about regional socio-economic stability and progress.

Objectives of the Conference

Aware that maritime insecurity has economic, social, political and environmental implications globally, the conference therefore hopes to achieve the following objectives:

  1. Define the precise nature and scope of coordinated regional responses to maritime insecurity vis-à-vis intervention supports from external actors/partners.
  2. Evaluate the relevance and impacts of the various interventions initiated already to tackle maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea with a view to revising and adapting them to address the current challenges.
  3. Decisively move towards policy harmonization and effective implementation through regional integration and cooperation as principal method for delivering effective and efficient security in the region.
  4. In addition to tackling threats to maritime security, strategize alternative approach to prevent cyber security attack and other forms of emerging maritime security threats.
  5. Advocate for deeper global commitment to deployment of resources for ending maritime insecurity within the region timeously.