The shipping industry, along with seafarer groups, has called for an urgent action against the ongoing issue of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
“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,” Dr. Grahaeme Henderson, Chair of the UK Shipping Defence Advisory Committee and Vice President of Shell Shipping & Maritime, told a symposium on Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea.
Concerns raised by the 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.
Dr. Dakuku Peterside, the Director General and CEO of the Nigerian Maritime Authority and Safety Agency (NIMASA), explained 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.
“We have no option but to work together, but we cannot have imposed solutions,” Peterside added.
Speakers at the event emphasized the region was starting to build capacity and joint cooperation to fight maritime crime through the Yaoundé Process, which focuses on joint cooperation across the region for reporting and response. The international community is also sponsoring long-term capacity building and partnerships.
However, the shipping industry, seafarer groups and Flag States are keen to identify actions that can have an immediate impact. On this note, attendees heard about Spanish Navy’s action to assist Equatorial Guinea to rescue seafarers from a piracy attack last month, as well as the new U.S. program to embark law enforcement officers on regional vessels.
“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,” Jakob Larsen, Head of Security for BIMCO pointed out that regional states needed to play their part as well.
Concerns over increased piracy in the Gulf of Guinea have resulted in several member states submitting proposals that could help address the crisis.