West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea recorded an unprecedented increase in piracy attacks in 2020, according to the International Maritime Bureau in its 2020 Annual Piracy report published on Wednesday.
The IMB said its Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) received 195 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships worldwide, in comparison to 162 in 2019. The incidents included three hijacked vessels, 11 vessels fired upon, 20 attempted attacks, and 161 vessels boarded.
The IMB reported that 135 crew members were kidnapped from their vessels in 2020, with the Gulf of Guinea accounting for over 95% kidnapped. A record of 130 crew members were kidnapped in 22 separate incidents.
“The rise is attributed to an increase of piracy and armed robbery reported within the Gulf of Guinea, as well as increased armed robbery activity in the Singapore Straits.”
Since 2019, the Gulf of Guinea has experienced an unprecedented rise in the number of multiple crew kidnappings. In the last quarter of 2019 alone, the Gulf of Guinea recorded 39 crew kidnapped in two separate incidents.
Incidents in the Gulf of Guinea are particularly dangerous as over 80% of attackers were armed with guns, according to the latest IMB figures. All three vessel hijackings and nine of the 11 vessels fired upon in 2020 related to this region. Crew kidnappings were reported in 25% of vessel attacks in the Gulf of Guinea – more than any other region in the world.
The furthest crew kidnapping in 2020 occurred almost 200 nautical miles (NM) from land with the average kidnapping incident taking place over 60NM from land.
The IMB said the piracy attacks demonstrates the increasing capabilities of pirates in the Gulf of Guinea and urged that vessels in the region to remain at least 250NM from the coast at all times, or until the vessel can transit to commence cargo operations at a berth or safe anchorage.
The IMB also urged increased information exchange and coordination between vessels, reporting and response agencies in the Gulf of Guinea Region.
“Despite prompt action by navies in the region, there remains an urgent need to address this crime, which continues to have a direct impact on the safety and security of innocent seafarers,” said Michael Howlett, Director of the ICC International Maritime Bureau.
Nairametrics reported in 2019 that Nigeria outstripped Indonesia to become the worst country in the world for piracy. The rampant kidnapping activities in the Gulf of Guinea have increased tremendously in recent years, with Nigeria accounting for 48 out of the 70 recorded in 2019 – implying that Nigeria is responsible for almost one out of every four cases recorded globally.
In October 2020, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported a rise in piracy and armed robbery on the world’s seas in the first nine months of 2020, with a 40% increase in the number of kidnappings reported in the Gulf of Guinea. Pirates armed with guns and knives are abducting bigger groups of seafarers at further distances off the West African coast.
The United States of America handed over maritime equipment to the Nigerian Navy to secure maritime threats in the Gulf of Guinea and also promote bilateral relations between both nations.
Confidence MacHarry, Analyst at SBM Intelligence told Nairametrics that for Nigeria to tackle its Fish production, Nigeria needs to work on a joint coalition to deal with the piracy problem in the Gulf of Guinea. He said: “To tackle the menace of piracy, the Deep Blue Project must be effectively launched. Not just rhetoric, launch it and let it be operational. Also, like the MNJTF, there should be an international coalition of the Gulf countries to tackle piracy collectively.”