IMO Urges Action to Deter Gulf of Guinea Piracy

  • Feb 22, 2021
  • Rigzone

The Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Kitack Lim, has expressed his deep concern about the escalation in the number and severity of attacks on ships and crew in the Gulf of Guinea region.

Lim insisted on the need for all stakeholders to work together to restore security and reduce the threats to the safety and security of crews and vessels operating in the area and highlighted that ships need to implement the IMO endorsed Best Management Practices (BMP) for West Africa (WA) to avoid, deter, delay and report attacks.

The Secretary-General said the IMO had been taking action to enhance the coordination of initiatives among stakeholders, including facilitating meetings with representatives of the industry, the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), and the Interregional Coordination Centre for the Implementation of Regional Strategy for Maritime Safety and Security in Central and West Africa (ICC).

The IMO intends to convene a maritime security working group focusing on the Gulf of Guinea at the next session of the Maritime Safety Committee, which is scheduled to take place in May 2021. The organization noted that this will provide an opportunity for member states and international organizations to discuss further collaboration and possible action to address existing problems.

Just this month alone, several incidents involving oil and gas industry vessels are said to have occurred in the Gulf of Guinea. On February 7, for example, reporting indicated that the MV Sea Phantom oil/chemical tanker had been boarded by pirates off the coast of Kribi, Cameroon, Dryad Global highlighted. The company also drew attention to reports of an attempted boarding of the MT SeaKing oil vessel and reports of an attack on the LNG Madrid Spirit vessel on February 8, and reports that the MT Maria E oil/chemical tanker had been boarded on February 9.

In a statement sent to Rigzone back in January, Dryad Global analyst Kate Backshall said piracy within the Gulf of Guinea has shown an increasing trend with a 52 percent increase in overall incidents from 2016.

“Perhaps the greatest defining feature is an increase in severity of incidents and the increase in incidents beyond the traditional heartland of piracy within the Nigerian EEZ,” Backshall said in the statement.

“While Nigeria’s waters remain the most hazardous, incidents have decentralized and are increasingly seen in the waters off Ghana, Benin, Sao Tome and Togo,” Backshall added.

The Dryad Global analyst noted that pirates are “well resourced”, showing both the capability and intent to target vessels underway, deep offshore.

“The focus upon kidnapping of crew is a clear priority over the hijack of vessels and theft of cargo,” Backshall said.

“This is the result of a number of key reasons, mainly to do with the complex logistical difficulties associated with hijack and cargo theft and the ease of operating and concealing hostages within the sprawling mangroves and swamps of the Southern Niger Delta,” Backshall added.

Last month, the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) annual piracy report revealed that the Gulf of Guinea accounted for over 95 percent of crew numbers kidnapped, globally, last year.

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