The Gulf of Guinea remains one of the most dangerous bodies of water worldwide for seafarers with the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) urging ships and crew transiting it to “remain alert and not let their guard down “.
The warning follows a report of seafarers kidnapped from a tanker off Benin last week.
Pirates boarded an underway Maltese-flagged chemical tanker about 210 nautical miles south of Cotonou and kidnapped 15 crew members. The remaining six crew members are apparently on board and safe though unqualified to navigate the ship.
IMB said this attack could signal re-ignition of “serious kidnapping incidents” in the Gulf of Guinea after four weeks of relatively low activity. This is in the wake of earlier heightened kidnapping activity in the region.
“This would be totally unacceptable and the need to address this crime, which continues to have a direct impact on the safety and security of innocent seafarers, remains urgent. Flag states and seafarer nations are urged to voice their opinion and back the shipping industry in efforts to muster an immediate and meaningful response to this criminal activity,” according to an IMB statement.
“We urge vessels and crew transiting the area to remain vigilant using all available means and follow recommendations and guidelines in the BMP WA (Best Management Practices West Africa). Reporting all incidents is essential to ensure adequate regional or international resources are deployed to meaningfully address this crime.”
IMB data shows the Gulf of Guinea recorded the highest ever number of crew kidnapped in 2020 with 130 crew members taken in 22 separate incidents. This compares to the previous high of 121 kidnapped in 2019 from 17 incidents.
Crew are kidnapped from all types of vessels with the most recent attack being the furthest recorded from shore kidnapping incident.