The Plunge In Oil Prices Is Affecting Everyone — Even The Pirates
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now, you might have been reveling in the low oil prices over the past few months. Crude oil prices have sunk to 13-year lows of $30 a barrel. There's another benefit you probably can't see - piracy off the coast of West Africa is down, too. The number of attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Guinea has fallen a third since last year. Agencies that track these numbers say piracy is no longer such a profitable business. Bolaji Akinola keeps track of the maritime industry in West Africa as an industry analyst. We reached him in Lagos via Skype. He says, there used to be a great deal of oil theft in the Gulf of Guinea when crude was trading at more than $100 barrel, and then he talked about Nigeria, specifically.
BOLAJI AKINOLA: Nigeria was losing as much as 500,000 barrels of oil per day. That is a quarter of what it is able to sell to the international community.
MARTIN: Do you attribute the drop in the number of attacks on oil tankers to the drop in oil prices? Do you think that there's a connection?
AKINOLA: Certainly, there is a connection. Since the price dropped, there has been a decline in piracy and the numbers are there. The low oil price is a deterrence. It's not much of a worthwhile venture any longer.
MARTIN: Are there other reasons why the number of attacks may also be down, in addition to the drop in oil prices?
AKINOLA: Certainly, there are other reasons. The first other reason is the setting up of the Maritime Piracy Reporting Centre under the Gulf of Guinea Commission. What that has done is to enable vessels to report incidents of attacks. And the other key reason has been increased patrol by the navies of the countries in the Gulf of Guinea region.
MARTIN: So what does this Piracy Reporting Centre do? Do people report the attacks after the fact or do they report when they think they're about to be attacked?
AKINOLA: So you call for help when you come under attack. Not too long ago, I think early February, a vessel under attack was able to make a call, and the Nigerian navy was on a - taking a patrol within that area. It quickly responded, and it was able to repel the attacks. And the pirates took to the hills; they ran away.
MARTIN: So how are the pirates adapting to all this? You know, I hate to put it this way, but they're business people. Are they going into other crimes?
AKINOLA: Now they are kidnapping crew members and then holding them for ransom, the kind of piracy that we saw in the Somalia area, in the Gulf of Aden. In fact, in February, they targeted the (unintelligible) vessel with the aim of taking one or two crewmembers hostage and then asking for ransom.
MARTIN: You know, maritime work is still dangerous in this area, it seems to me. Is there discussion about what a long-term solution to this would be?
AKINOLA: In the long-run, there is a need to provide employment for youth, especially in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria. I hope you are aware of the fact that piracy in the larger Gulf of Guinea area has been blamed on Nigerian pirates. So until you are able to meaningfully engage this category of people, they will continue to constitute danger to shipping.
MARTIN: Bolaji Akinola is a maritime industry analyst. Thank you so much for speaking with us.
AKINOLA: Thank you very much.