LONDON – Speakers at a maritime security symposium in London last week noted a growing incidence of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
Earlier this year the Spanish Navy had to intervene to rescue the crew of a hijacked subsea construction vessel operating offshore Equatorial Guinea.
Dr. Grahaeme Henderson, chair of the UK Shipping Defence Advisory Committee and vice president Shell Shipping & Maritime, speaking at the event at the headquarters of the International Maritime Organization, 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.”
Figures from the International Maritime Bureau show that the number of attacks in the Gulf of Guinea region doubled in 2018. There has also been an escalation of incidents involving kidnapping for ransom and armed robbery.
Piracy specialist Professor Bertand Monnet, who has interviewed pirate gangs in the Niger Delta, estimated that around 10 groups of pirates were responsible for most of the attacks in the area. All were well organized, he added.
Dr. Dakuku Peterside, director general and CEO of the Nigerian Maritime Authority and Safety Agency (NIMASA), said initiatives under way to improve the joint capacity of Nigerian law enforcement and Navy capabilities could make seafarer kidnappings “history” within months.
He also stressed the importance of international co-operation, particularly with the shipping sector, adding that NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy would host a Global Maritime Security Conference in October to explore solutions for regional and international collaborations in the Gulf of Guinea.
However, Jakob Larsen, head of Security for BIMCO, said regional states needed to play their part: “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.”