US warns of growing piracy risk off West Africa
The United States is increasingly worried about pirate attacks off West Africa and is committed to helping countries bolster security in the region, a US diplomat said Tuesday.
At least 27 attacks on boats, including robberies, kidnappings or failed attempts, have occurred off the West Africa coast since April, according to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
Off Africa's east coast however -- a former hotbed of pirate activity notably based in Somalia -- only two attacks have been reported in the period.
"Creating .. national strategies for maritime security is an essential first step," said Andrew Haviland, charge d'affaires at the US embassy in Ivory Coast's economic capital Abidjan.
He was speaking at the opening of a US-organised conference on sea security attended by officials from 15 African countries that runs through Friday.
Countries along the Gulf of Guinea stretching from Senegal to Angola have been trying to cooperate on improving maritime security, but they have limited resources for pursuing pirates.
"So we need legal frameworks in our own countries and with our neighbours... in order to bring criminals to justice," Haviland said.
More than 40 African countries pledged to step up the fight against piracy at a summit meeting in Lome, Togo, in October.
The United States will support these efforts through its Africa Centre for Strategic Studies, financed by the US Defense Department.
World piracy has been on the decline since 2012 after international naval patrols were launched off East Africa in response to a spate of violent assaults by Somali-based pirates and others.
The number of pirate attacks off Nigeria rose from 14 in 2015 to 36 last year, the International Maritime Bureau said last month.