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Analyst: West Africa mission will be difficult

As things are now, it'll be difficult for a Western fleet to operate in West Africa, especially in the territorial waters of Nigeria, says chief analyst Nis Leerskov Mathiesen of Risk Intelligence.

Photo: IMO

If a Western fleet is sent to West Africa to combat the increasing piracy in the region, it won't be an easy operation, says chief analyst Nis Leerskov Mathiesen of Risk Intelligence.

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"As things are now, it would be very difficult for a Western fleet to operate here, especially in the territorial waters of Nigeria," he says.

Politicians want to fight piracy in West Africa

But that's what European shipowners are planning for when in a few weeks they'll be calling for the EU and the UN to increase the efforts against piracy. A coordinated naval effort and armed guards on the ships, among other initiatives, to help solve the problems related to assaults and robberies. Such efforts helped solve the problems in the Gulf of Aden.

But the conditions in West Africa are nowhere close to those on the East coast of Africa, where the initiatives to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia took place in international waters. According to Nis Leerskov,this was possible because the weak government in Mogadishu allowed operations in the country's coastal waters and even on land.

"And the situation in West Africa is nothing like that, where the Nigerian government is a lot stronger, though in many ways it's still disfunctional."

Might be easier with smaller countries

Other countries in West Africa, such as Togo and Benin, might be more likely to welcome Western fleets. But the key problem stems from Nigeria, stresses Nis Leerskov Mathiesen, who adds that there's still no signs that the country will allow help from Western fleets:

"Western fleets will be able to lie at sea and of course patrol there. But that will be problematic partly due to the Nigerian government, and partly because they won't be able to do anything about the attacks from out there," he says, though pointing out that sharing information and establishing a contingency effort would of course help.

"But they can't just take the model developed for Somalia and transfer it to West Africa."

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