Why are there so many pirates in West Africa?

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Four crew members of a Greek-flagged oil tanker were taken hostage by pirates off the coast of Togo on Monday. The attack comes two days after nine crew members were kidnapped off the coast of Benin from a cargo ship belonging to Norwegian shipping company J. J. Ugland.

The incidents have put the spotlight on the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa, which has the unfortunate distinction of being the worlds leading hotspot for piracy.

According to the International Maritime Bureau the region stretching from the coast of Liberia to Angola accounted for 86% of hostages taken and 82% of crew kidnappings globally in the first six months of 2019, with many incidents going unreported.

Much of this is concentrated in the waters off Nigeria, Africas biggest economy. The countrys main port in the commercial capital Lagos has seen at least 11 attacks this year, the most globally. Weak security and legislation to deal with piracy, part of a generally slow response from authorities, have fanned the problem in recent years.

The good news is that Nigeria recently enacted new anti-piracy laws, and has deployed more patrol boats to police the region, helping to cut reported incidents to 21 in the first six months of 2019, down from 31 the previous year.

With some luck the tide is turning.

This report reflects the views of the autho....

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