BIMCO calls for urgent international naval coalition to fight piracy off West Africa

International shipowning body BIMCO is calling for international naval support to counter the growing threat of piracy off West Africa.

A fresh annual report from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) shows that attacks in West Africa pushed piracy numbers up in 2018.

According to the bureau’s report, there were 201 incidents reported to the bureau last year including six hijackings – all of which happened in the Gulf of Guinea. That is a rise from 180 incidents in 2017 and from 191 in 2016.

The report also showed that the region saw a considerable spike in violence in the last quarter of the year, with 41 kidnappings in the waters off Nigeria alone. In West Africa, there appears to be challenges with underreporting, which is estimated at as much as 40%, the report says.

Jakob Larsen, BIMCO’s head of maritime security, commented on the need for navies to step in yesterday.

“To be honest, unless we see international naval support and close cooperation between international navies and local law enforcement, I doubt that we will see the numbers go down in any significant way,” Larsen stated in a release.

“Significant capacity building is going on in the region and naval forces are being trained, but these initiatives are all aimed at the longer term and do not solve the problem right now. Therefore, we need to step up the effort. Only then can we really turn the tide on piracy in the region,” Larsen said.

Larsen believes that what is needed is to combine the capacity building with more assets at sea and in the air in order to achieve a more robust local law enforcement.

The BIMCO executive admitted any operation could be complicated from a political point of view, getting all the littoral states of West Africa to agree to the naval option.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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