By Chris Stein
Aboard the Commandant Birot (Ghana) (AFP) – Grey, sleek, bristling with massive cannon and an assortment of machine guns, the French navy’s Commandant Birot is well-equipped to patrol Africa’s most dangerous stretches of ocean.
Vessels like it played a key role in curbing pirate attacks off the coast of lawless Somalia, which saw a spate of cargo ships hijacked and ransomed for months and even years.
But with attacks off the Horn of Africa in decline, the Birot is now needed off the continent’s western coast in the Gulf of Guinea, as experts call for regional navies to shoulder more of the burden.
“It’s the place where there’s the most oil platforms”, which means lots of boats travelling between land and the installations, said the Birot’s captain Lieutenant Commander Yves Le Goff.
“It’s a good place to be a pirate,” he told AFP.
Many of the pirates targeting ships on the high seas come from the Niger Delta in southern Nigeria, where indigenous groups are demanding a greater share of the region’s oil wealth.
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