Offshore Energy and Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea

Posted: 17th July 2012

Several contacts of ours have recently mentioned security threats on the rise around the Gulf of Guinea, and in particular, risks to offshore energy investment. You can get a nice primer on hot issues for energy infrastructure in this interview with Micheal Bagley of corporate intelligence firm Jellyfish.

Speaking about threats to global energy security, Bagley says:

…Another region is Gulf of Guinea where international oil companies are incredibly important for production and exploration activities. Nigeria, and the Niger Delta in particular, produces light sweet crude that is incredibly important for the global market… Also, oil theft gangs are multi-national. For example, in a recent arrest of 27 people accused of stealing oil, 5 of them were Nigerians while the remainder were Ghanaians. The key take-away is that this is spreading and will thus become more complex and challenging to untangle…

And if the stakeholders on the nefarious side are proving to be diverse, so are the countries seeking to protect their economic investments.  Drawing up a network of entities engaged in action related to the region just during the first half of 2012, we confirm that it is indeed global.

Paring this complex network down to display a particular subset of connections, we can see the partnerships both military and otherwise being formed with the region’s primary oil exporter Nigeria.

Some of the events generating the above network include:

  • Deal with China to build two new $42 million Offshore Patrol Vessels
  • Joint military exercises in February alongside forces from the US, Ghana, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Togo, Benin, and the Republic of Congo.
  • Additional support sought from African countries to join current patrols by Nigeria and Benin.
  • Patrol ships purchased from France and Singapore.

Alongside the geopolitical implications, we’ll also want to consider corporate investment in the region. Here’s an abbreviated list of the companies (see the full list here) invested in offshore operations around Africa, which shows the scope of operations.

If you’re interested in security for that region, having a monitor system in place to keep tabs on both geopolitical developments as well as destabilizing events such as protests, terrorism, or disasters is crucial in complement to on the ground resources.

And now a question to any of you security professionals and analysts reading: what do you think are the key points to watch in this region? We’d love to get your thoughts on how to best conduct real-time situational awareness in this area that would complement the strategic planning and security operations of companies in this increasingly volatile region.