Some of shipping’s top stakeholders met on Friday at the London headquarters of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to demand action to counter the dire piracy situation off the Gulf of Guinea, which is causing severe distress for seafarers who have to transit the region.
The event, co-sponsored by BIMCO, IMCA, ICS, ITF and OCIMF, drew members of the shipping community, flag states and agencies from the Gulf of Guinea.
In opening the symposium, Dr. Grahaeme Henderson, chair of the UK Shipping Defence Advisory Committee and vice president of Shell Shipping & Maritime, said, “Simply put, the high level of piracy and armed robbery attacks in the Gulf of Guinea is not acceptable. Yet it is happening every day and this is not business as usual. We need to take urgent action now.”
Concerns raised by industry were supported by figures from the International Maritime Bureau showing that the number of attacks in the Gulf of Guinea region had doubled in 2018. There has also been a marked increase towards kidnapping for ransom and armed robbery incidents. Piracy expert Professor Bertand Monnet, who has interviewed pirate gangs in the Niger Delta, estimated that there were approximately 10 groups of pirates that were responsible for the majority of attacks in the area, and they were well organized and motivated.
Dr Dakuku Peterside, the director general and CEO of the Nigerian Maritime Authority and Safety Agency (NIMASA), in his keynote address to the meeting acknowledged the maritime security risks present in the Gulf of Guinea, but stated that new initiatives underway to improve the joint capacity of Nigerian law enforcement and Navy capabilities could make seafarer kidnappings “history” within a matter of months. He went on to state that he is keen to improve international cooperation, particularly with the shipping industry.
According to Peterside: “We have no option but to work together, but we cannot have imposed solutions”.
Jakob Larsen, head of security for BIMCO pointed out that regional states needed to play their part as well.
“Nigerian piracy mainly affects a small geographical area of around 150 x 150 nautical miles. The problem can be solved easily and quickly, especially if Nigeria partners with international navies. Nigeria holds the key to solving this problem,” Larsen said.
Guy Platten, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping, concluded, “It is unacceptable that seafarers are being exposed to such appalling dangers and we need the authorities to take action now.”