Gulf of Guinea

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Gulf of Guinea
Gulf of Guinea (English).jpg
Gulf of Guinea map showing the chain of islands formed by the Cameroon line of volcanoes
Africa relief location map.jpg
Red pog.svg
Gulf of Guinea
Coordinates 0°0′N0°0′E / 0.000°N 0.000°E / 0.000; 0.000 Coordinates: 0°0′N0°0′E / 0.000°N 0.000°E / 0.000; 0.000
Native name French: Golfe de Guinée
Portuguese: Golfo da Guiné
River sources Niger
Ocean/sea sources Atlantic Ocean
Basin  countries Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon (Ambazonia), Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, São Tomé and Príncipe, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola
Surface area2,350,000 km2 (910,000 sq mi)
Islands Bioko, São Tomé, Príncipe, Ilhéu Bom Bom, Ilhéu Caroço, Elobey Grande, Elobey Chico, Annobón, Corisco, Bobowasi

The Gulf of Guinea is the northeasternmost part of the tropical Atlantic Ocean from Cape Lopez in Gabon, north and west to Cape Palmas in Liberia. [1] The intersection of the Equator and Prime Meridian (zero degrees latitude and longitude) is in the gulf.


Among the many rivers that drain into the Gulf of Guinea are the Niger and the Volta. The coastline on the gulf includes the Bight of Benin and the Bight of Bonny.


The origin of the name Guinea is thought to be an area in the region, although the specifics are disputed. Bovill (1995) gives a thorough description: [2]

The name Guinea is usually said to have been a corrupt form of the name Ghana, picked up by the Portuguese in the Maghrib. The present writer finds this unacceptable. The name Guinea has been in use both in the Maghrib and in Europe long before Prince Henry's time. For example, on a map dated about 1320 by the Genoese cartographer Giovanni di Carignano, who got his information about Africa from a fellow-countryman in Sijilmassa [ancient trading city in North Africa], we find Gunuia, and in the Catalan atlas of 1375 as Ginyia. A passage in Leo [Africanus] (vol. III, 822) points to Guinea having been a corrupt form of Jenne [2,000-year-old city in central Mali on Niger river], less famous than Ghana but nevertheless for many centuries famed in the Maghrib as a great market and a seat of learning. The relevant passage reads: "The Kingdom of Ghinea . . . called by the merchants of our nation Gheneoa, by the natural inhabitants thereof Genni and by the Portugals and other people of Europe Ghinea." But it seems more probable that Guinea derives from aguinaou, the Berber for Negro. Marrakech [city in southeastern Morocco] has a gate, built in the twelfth century, called the Bab Aguinaou, the Gate of the Negro (Delafosse, Haut-Sénégal-Niger, II, 277-278). The modern application of the name Guinea to the coast dates only from 1481. In that year the Portuguese built a fort, São Jorge da Mina (modern day Elmina), on the Gold Coast region, and their king, John II, was permitted by the Pope [Sixtus II or Innocent VIII] to style himself Lord of Guinea, a title that survived until the recent extinction of the monarchy.

The name "Guinea" was also applied to south coast of West Africa, north of the Gulf of Guinea, which became known as "Upper Guinea", and the west coast of Southern Africa, to the east, which became known as "Lower Guinea".[ citation needed ] The name "Guinea" is still attached to the names of three countries in Africa: Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Equatorial Guinea, as well as New Guinea in Melanesia.


The main river shedding its waters in the gulf is the Niger River.

Different definitions of the geographic limits of the Gulf of Guinea are given; the International Hydrographic Organization defines the southwest extent of the Gulf of Guinea as "B line from Cap Lopez ( 0°37′S8°43′E / 0.617°S 8.717°E / -0.617; 8.717 ), in Gabon, northwestward to Ihléu Gago Coutinho (Ilhéu das Rôlas) ( 0°01′S6°32′E / 0.017°S 6.533°E / -0.017; 6.533 ); and thence a line from Ihléu Gago Coutinho northwestward to Cape Palmas ( 4°22′N7°44′W / 4.367°N 7.733°W / 4.367; -7.733 ), in Liberia. [1]

Islands in the Gulf of Guinea

The Gulf of Guinea contains a number of islands, the largest of which are in a southwest-northeast chain, forming part of the Cameroon line of volcanoes.

Annobón, also known as Pagalu or Pigalu, is an island that is part of Equatorial Guinea.

Bobowasi Island is an island off the west coast of Africa in the Gulf of Guinea that is part of the Western Region of Ghana.

Bioko is an island off the Ambazonian region of Cameroon in the Gulf of Guinea under the sovereignty of Equatorial Guinea.

Corisco is an island belonging to Equatorial Guinea.

Elobey Grande and Elobey Chico are two small islands belonging to Equatorial Guinea.

São Tomé and Príncipe (officially the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe) is a Portuguese-speaking island nation in the Gulf of Guinea that became independent from Portugal in 1975. It is located off the western equatorial coast of Africa and consists of two islands, São Tomé and Príncipe. They are located about 140 kilometres (87 mi) apart and about 250 and 225 kilometres (155 and 140 mi), respectively, off the northwestern coast of Gabon. Both islands are part of an extinct volcanic mountain range. São Tomé, the sizeable southern island, is situated just north of the Equator.

Maritime security

Maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea consists of 18 sovereign states. [3] Multiple institutional mandates address maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea: The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). [3] Additionally, maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea is also addressed by the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC). [3] Maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea is characterised not only by piracy but by a myriad of maritime crimes despite piracy often dominating the conversation on maritime security. According to the ‘Priority Paper for the Danish Efforts to Combat Piracy and Other Types of Maritime Crime 2019-2022’ piracy and maritime crime are defined as follows:

Piracy can be defined as any illegal act of violence, detention or depredation committed for private ends at high seas against another ship or aircraft. [4] Maritime crime may include armed robbery at sea, trafficking of humans or smuggling of illicit goods, drugs and weapons, illegal fishing, fuel theft and more. [4]

The other notable crimes in the Gulf of Guinea are illegal fishing, kidnap for ransom, drug trafficking and oil-bunkering. [5] Illegal oil-bunkering consists of the attacking of vessels transporting oil and transferring the oil to the thieves’ own vessel. [3] After which the oil is sold in local and international markets.

Kidnapping for ransom is one of the most prevalent maritime crimes in the region. Between 2018 and 2019, the number of crew members that were kidnapped in the Gulf of Guinea increased by 50%, leading the region to account for 90% of global kidnappings at sea. [6]

See also

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The Armed Forces of São Tomé and Príncipe are the armed forces of the island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe, off the coast of West Africa. The islands' military consists of a small land and naval contingent, with a limited budget. Sitting adjacent to strategically important sea lane of communication in the Gulf of Guinea, due to recent concerns about regional security issues including security for oil tankers transiting the area, the US military and other foreign navies have increased their engagement with the FASTP, providing the country with assistance in the form of construction projects and training missions, as well as integration into international information and intelligence sharing programs.

Bight of Biafra

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Annobón Province of Equatorial Guinea

Annobón, and formerly as Anno Bom and Annabona, is a province of Equatorial Guinea consisting of the island of Annobón, formerly also Pigalu and Pagalu, and its associated islets in the Gulf of Guinea. According to the 2015 census, Annobón had 5,314 inhabitants, a small population increase from the 5,008 registered by the 2001 census. The official language is Spanish but most of the inhabitants speak a creole form of Portuguese. The island's main industries are fishing and forestry.

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The Lower Guinean forests is region of coastal tropical moist broadleaf forest in West Africa, extending along the eastern coast of the Gulf of Guinea from eastern Benin through Nigeria and Cameroon.

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Frasers musk shrew Species of mammal

Fraser's musk shrew is a species of mammal in the family Soricidae. It is found in Benin, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, and Togo. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests. This large black shrew was first described by the British zoologist Louis Fraser in 1843. Its exact definition is unclear; the karyotype comes from Ivory Coast but not from Equatorial Guinea, which is given as the type locality.

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea affects a number of countries in West Africa as well as the wider international community. By 2011, it had become an issue of global concern. Pirates in the Gulf of Guinea are often part of heavily armed criminal enterprises, who employ violent methods to steal oil cargo. In 2012, the International Maritime Bureau, Oceans Beyond Piracy and the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Program reported that the number of vessels attacks by West African pirates had reached a world high, with 966 seafarers attacked during the year. According to the Control Risks Group, pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea had by mid-November 2013 maintained a steady level of around 100 attempted hijackings in the year, a close second behind Southeast Asia. Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea continues to be a concern to the shipping industry, which is affected significantly. At the same time, governments in the region generally highlight that the fight against piracy requires a broad understanding of maritime security throughout the Gulf of Guinea.

Insular Region (Equatorial Guinea)

The Insular Region of Equatorial Guinea comprises the former Spanish territory of Fernando Po, together with Annobón island, the latter formerly part of the Spanish territory of Elobey, Annobón and Corisco, which was located in the Gulf of Guinea and in the Corisco Bay.

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São Tomé and Príncipe, officially the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe, is an island country in the Gulf of Guinea, off the western equatorial coast of Central Africa. It consists of two archipelagos around the two main islands of São Tomé and Príncipe, about 140 km (87 mi) apart and about 250 and 225 km off the northwestern coast of Gabon.

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As a practice of piracy, petro-piracy, also sometimes called oil piracy or petrol piracy, is defined as “illegal taking of oil after vessel hijacks, which are sometimes executed with the use of motorships” with huge potential financial rewards. Petro-piracy is mostly a practice that is connected to and originates from piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, but examples of petro-piracy outside of the Gulf of Guinea is not uncommon. At least since 2008, the Gulf of Guinea has been home to pirates practicing petro-piracy by targeting the region’s extensive oil industry. Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea has risen in the last years to become the hot spot of piracy globally with 76 actual and attempted attacks, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB). Most of these attacks in the Gulf of Guinea take place in inland or territorial waters, but recently pirates have been proven to venture further out to sea, e.g. crew members were kidnapped from the tanker David B. 220 nautical miles outside of Benin. Pirates most often targets vessels carrying oil products and kidnappings of crew for ransom. IMB reports that countries in the Gulf of Guinea, Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Togo, Congo, and, especially, Nigeria, have experienced petro-piracy and kidnappings of crew as the most common trends of piracy attacks in the Gulf of Guinea.


  1. 1 2 "Limits of Oceans and Seas, Draft 4th Edition: North Atlantic Ocean and its Sub-Divisions". International Hydrographic Organization. 2002. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  2. Hale, Thomas A. "From the Griot of Roots to the Roots of Griot: A New Look at the Origins of a Controversial African Term for Bard" (PDF). Oral Tradition.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Jessica., Larsen. Reconciling international priorities with local needs DENMARK AS A NEW SECURITY ACTOR IN THE GULF OF GUINEA. Danish Institute for International Studies. OCLC   1152018425.
  4. 1 2 Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark. (2019). Priority paper for the Danish efforts to combat piracy and other types of maritime crime 2019-2022. Copenhagen: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark.
  5. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark. (2018). Gulf of Guinea Maritime Security Programme, 2019-2021. Copenhagen: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark.
  6. Nicoloso, Giulia (2020-07-17). "Stark increase in kidnapping at sea in the Gulf of Guinea". Critical Maritime Routes. Retrieved 2021-05-30.