…As European Shipowners Urge Concrete Action on Gulf of Guinea Piracy ***
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has reported a drop in piracy attacks in Nigeria in the third quarter of 2019, noting in its latest report on the Gulf of Guinea, that piracy in Nigeria reduced from 41 in 2018 to 29 in 2019, representing nearly 30 per cent year-on-year reduction.
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) while celebrating the IMB report also said the agency is utilizing the growing conducive environment to boost its Deep Blue Sea Project, a comprehensive maritime security architecture it initiated in collaboration with the military and other security agencies.
The piracy reporting body also said there was a decrease in global piracy incidents during the first nine months of 2019, compared with the corresponding period in 2018, in a fall to a five-year low.
Director of IMB, a specialised division of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Pottengal Mukundan, said, ‘’119 incidents have been reported to the IMB Piracy Reporting Center in 2019, compared to 156 incidents for the same period in 2018. Overall, the 2019 incidents include 95 vessels boarded, 10 vessels fired upon, 10 attempted attacks, and four vessels hijacked. The number of crew taken hostage through the first nine months has declined from 112 in 2018 to 49 in 2019.”
However, according to IMB, piracy and armed robbery attacks remain a challenge in the Gulf of Guinea.
The decline in piracy and armed robbery attacks on vessels came as the Deep Blue Project, Nigeria’s Integrated Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, began to yield results.
The project is handled by an Israeli firm, Homeland Security International (HLSI). It involves the training of field and technical operatives drawn from the various strata of the security services and NIMASA as well as acquisition of assets to combat maritime crime, such as fast intervention vessels, surveillance aircraft, and other facilities, and establishment of a command and control centre for data collection and information sharing to aid targeted enforcement.
The Deep Blue Project aims at building a formidable integrated surveillance and security architecture that will broadly combat maritime crime and criminalities in Nigeria’s waterways up to the Gulf of Guinea.
The timing of the IMB report also coincides with the conclusion of the Global Maritime Security Conference (GMSC 2019) hosted by Nigeria, and coordinated by the Federal Ministry of Transportation and NIMASA, under the theme, “Managing and Securing our Waters.”
With the stated objective of, among others, defining the nature and scope of coordinated responses to maritime insecurity in relation to interventions, the conference enabled global maritime leaders to review the progress made in the fight against maritime crime while charting strategies for the future.
In the meantime, European shipowners have expressed concern about piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, urging policymakers to undertake concrete action to protect shipping through the region.
The latest International Maritime Bureau (IMB)’s Piracy & Armed Robbery Report demonstrates that the Gulf of Guinea has become increasingly dangerous for seafarers.
In the first nine months of 2019, the region accounts for 86% of the 49 crew taken hostage and 82% of the 70 crew kidnapped globally.
“The perilous circumstances in the Gulf of Guinea raise alarm bells for the safety and security of seafarers sailing through that area,” Martin Dorsman, European Community Shipowners Association (ECSA) Secretary General, commented.
“The threats are also putting at risk trade and development both in the region and globally. It is time EU member states step up their efforts to strengthen maritime security in the Gulf.”
ECSA members outlined a range of measures that could be taken to improve the current situation. These include engagement of the EU with the Gulf of Guinea governments in order to find a solution on the ground, an active contribution of the EU member states to the maritime security outside the territorial waters and the union’s support for coastal states on issues such as judicial systems, strengthening of the local coastguards and promotion of maritime training.
The ECSA call echoes concerns expressed earlier this year at a symposium on maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea held at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) head office in London.
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.
Additional reports from World Maritime News