Reports of growing piracy off the West Coast of Africa, with Nigeria leading in number of attacks on marine vessels; a situation marine insurers describe as huge threat to underwriting, has continued to generate concern for local market.
While Nigerian operators who participated at the International Union of Marine Insurance Annual Conference in London see the report as blown out of proportion, they believe that the ships leaving Nigeria waters have not had much challenge.
According to International Maritime Bureau (IMB) figures, piracy is at its lowest level since 2006, but the marine crime unit warns of continued violent attacks off the East and West Coasts of Africa.
According to the report, the Gulf of Guinea accounted for all crew kidnappings worldwide this year-32 of them off Nigeria and two off Togo, with Nigeria as the main source of piracy in the region, accounting for 29 piracy incidents, including two hijackings, 11 ships boarded, 13 vessels fired upon and three attempted attacks.
But Nsimah Jeremiah, an executive director at Anchor Insurance, who was at they conference was quick to add that Nigeria did not have a major problem with piracy, according to Commercial Risk Africa. While Adetayo Adekunle, assistant general manager, Leadway Assurance, added: ‚ÄúMost insured‚Äôs from Nigeria are not at risk from piracy in the same way.‚Äù
Their comments followed a speech from Andrew Wimbow, assistant secretary general at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) who said on piracy: ‚ÄúThe situation in East Africa appears to be improving and West Africa apparently not,‚Äù he said, adding that IMO‚Äôs work in West Africa is about getting people together.
It has been running a series of desktop exercises which demonstrate holes and overlaps but has been very effective in raising awareness.
IMO has been the key forum for discussing and developing guidance and promulgating best practice standards. It has been talking to navies and governments to encourage member states to keep giving their support to initiatives to reduce the risks.
The International Chamber of Commerce‚Äôs latest IMB report shows that at the end of the third quarter piracy around the world fell to levels not seen for seven years.
The figures reveal 188 piracy incidents in the first nine months of 2013, down from 233 in the same period last year. The number of seafarers taken hostage has also fallen markedly, with 266 people seized this year, compared with 458 in the first three quarters of 2012.
In the first nine months of 2013, IMB‚Äôs global figures show pirates hijacked 10 vessels, fired at 17 and boarded 140. A further 21 attacks were thwarted. In total, 266 crew were taken hostage and 34 kidnapped. One seafarer was killed, 20 were injured and one was reported missing.
Despite this improving risk landscape, Pottengal Mukundan, IMB director, urged caution, saying, ‚ÄúAlthough the number of attacks is down overall, the threat of attacks remains, particularly in the waters off Somalia and in the Gulf of Guinea. It is vital that ship masters continue to be vigilant as they transit these waters.‚Äù
Attacks in seas around Somalia, a previous danger zone, have continued to fall dramatically this year. There have been just 10 incidents attributed to Somali pirates, down from 70 in the same period of 2012.
IMB attributes this improvement to the actions of naval forces engaged in anti-piracy operations, security teams on board vessels, ships complying with the industry‚Äôs best management practices and the stabilising influence of the Central Government of Somalia.
‚ÄúThe vital role of the navies off the coast of Somalia should not be underestimated. Their presence ensures that pirates do not operate with the impunity they did before,‚Äù said Captain Mukundan.
As of 30 September, 2013, suspected Somali pirates held two vessels for ransom with 15 crew members on board. In addition, 49 kidnapped crew members are held on land, 37 of whom have been held for over two years.
With fewer attacks off Somalia, attention has moved to the Gulf of Guinea. Described by the IMB as ‚Äòa hotspot for violent piracy and ship hijacking for many years‚Äô, the region recorded more than 40 piracy attacks in the first three quarters of 2013, with 132 crew taken hostage and seven vessels hijacked. The IMB calls for increased patrols in these waters and warns ships to stay alert.