With piracy in West Africa on the rise, a newly released report highlights how pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea are far more violent than in Somalia and less-focused on ransom, requiring the industry to take a different approach to curb attacks.
The set of standards, a 12-page document entitled “Guidelines for Owners, Operators and Masters for Protection against Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea Region” pinpoints piracy in Nigeria, Togo and Benin as main concerns. The new report was launched in support of an information-sharing program by countries in the Gulf of Guinea, Port Technology reported.
The report says the “pirate business model” in the Gulf of Guinea does not primarily involve kidnap for ransom, like in Somalia, making the inherent value of keeping a crew alive a moot point for pirates. According to the round table, the risk is highest when the ship is at anchor, drifting off of a port or close to a pilot station and also, when two ships are adrift alongside each other when vessels are transferring cargo between each other. Piracy is more common at night, so ending operations during daylight hours is recommended.
The group advises vessels to use e-mail or satellite telephone instead of VHF radio communications. The guidelines also recommend avoiding tendering a Notice of Readiness when not immediately conducting cargo operations, as doing so would tip off potential hijackers.
The Gulf of Guinea, on Africa’s West Coast, is bordered by 11 different countries. According to the ICC International Maritime Commission, there have been 131 instances of piracy since 2009. Led by Nigeria, which reported over half of those piracy complaints with a total of 74, there have also been reports in Liberia (two), Sierra Leone (two), Ghana (eight), Togo (14), Benin (13), ¬†Cameroon (five), Guinea (three), Gabon (one), Democratic Republic of Congo (eight) and Angola (one).
Five countries reported nearly 70 percent of all 116 worldwide piracy incidents from January through June, according to the IMC. Indonesia topped the list with 47; Bangladesh and Nigeria tied for second with 10 each; Malaysia and the Singapore Straits rounded out the top five with nine and six incidents respectively. There were 33 incidents in all of Africa in the first half. The IMC hasn’t released a third-quarter piracy report as of yet, but as of Sept. 16 the bureau says 163 worldwide incidents of piracy were reported.
The new report ‚Äî which was a result of a round table involving BIMCO, NATO Shipping Center, the International Chamber of Shipping, Intertanko and the International Association of Dry Cargo Shipowners ‚Äî includes an outline of risk assessment to be taken by a ship‚Äôs captain and crew, which pays special attention to each vessel’s individual vulnerabilities and preventative procedures. It also identifies the three main types of piracy in the region: armed robbery, cargo theft and kidnapping.
Kidnapping is usually associated with the offshore oil industry, the report said, while armed robbery and cargo theft can occur on container vessels. For container ships, violent armed robbery is more common. The main threat is from approaches made by high-powered speedboats, according to the guidelines. A recent incident also occurred when a speedboat was launched from a “mother ship,” according to the report.
The new guidelines are additions to maritime security measures outlined by the International Maritime Organization in 2013. The IMO said it is working with member states in both western and central Africa to place national legislation that would make piracy and any attack on ships illegal.