Intercargo issues recommendations following two recent tanker hijackings and a spate of kidnappings of seafarers in the Gulf of Guinea.
While the International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reports a drop in global piracy in 2017, there is no time for complacency. Piracy in hot spots such as the Gulf of Guinea and South-East Asia persist and 2017 also saw some resurgence in attacks off Somalia. In addition, the ongoing conflict in Yemen continues to impact the safety of vessels transiting the Red Sea, Bab al-Mandeb and the Gulf of Aden.
The effect of piracy on crew and their safety continues to be a cause for concern and transiting West African waters remains particularly challenging. According to the IMB, ten incidents of kidnappings involving 65 crew members took place in and around Nigerian waters in 2017. While the IMB reported no vessel hijackings in the Gulf of Guinea during 2017, two tankers have been reported hijacked off Cotonou anchorage, Benin by mid-February 2018. In the most recent incident in the region, three crew members were reportedly kidnapped from a fishing vessel operating off Cameroon. Of the 16 vessels reportedly fired upon globally in 2017, seven occurred in Nigeria – further evidencing the levels of violence and threats to seafarers in these waters. See the IMB Live Piracy & Robbery Map for details.
Intercargo, the International Association of Dry Cargo Shipowners, issued a joint industry alert on 14 February 2018 in response to the increasing threat of hijack and kidnap in the Gulf of Guinea. It urges vessels operating in the area to report to the FR/UK operated Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade – Gulf of Guinea (MDAT-GoG) which is a secure and trusted agency. In addition, Intercargo recommend Masters of vessels operating in the area to plan according to the following:
Members and clients with vessels operating in the Gulf of Guinea are also advised to closely monitor the situation via the IMB website and by staying in close contact with regional authorities and their local agents. A risk assessment should be conducted and the relevant preventive measures adopted, following the Interim Guidelines for Owners, Operators and Masters for protection against piracy in the Gulf of Guinea region and the BMP4.
The US Maritime Administration (MARAD) has recently issued guidance to vessels transiting or operating in the Gulf of Guinea, see its Advisory 2018-004 of 24 January 2018.