Delegates attending the annual conference of International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) in London were told that “insurers, ship owners and cargo interests cannot equate piracy in West Africa to that seen off the coast of Somalia.”
Jim Mainstone, Marine Intelligence Specialist at Gray Page, said the gangs, which are operating in West Africa, “were more akin to organized criminal gangs than the opportunistic piracy gangs which have blighted the Gulf of Aden.”
He explained that the gangs hijacking cargoes have been operating in West Africa for the past two years. They have developed a complex web of connections and organizations which allow them to steal high value cargoes very efficiently.
“The issue with hijack for cargo in West Africa is that there is more than meets the eye,” Mainstone said, describing it as “more Mafia-style organized crime.
“The pirates which board the vessel are the tip of the iceberg. The iceberg is a massive criminal organization across the region.”
He also noted that the gangs have access to illegal lighters, storage facilities and the contacts to sell the goods on the black market and then to move the money raised which runs into many millions of dollars.
“It is a near perfect crime,” he said. “It is quick, it raises a lot of money very quickly, no one really gets hurt and no one is going to do, or is doing, very much about it. There is only one set of big winners which is the criminal gangs, and there is only one loser which is the cargo interests.”
Source: International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI)