Pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea increase


Piracy on the world’s seas increased last year with a marked rise in attacks against ships and crews around West Africa, the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) latest annual piracy report shows.

Worldwide the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) recorded 201 incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery in 2018 – up from 180 in 2017.

The Gulf of Guinea remains increasingly dangerous for seafarers. Reports of attacks in waters between the Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo more than doubled in 2018, accounting for all six hijackings worldwide, 13 of 18 ships fired on, 130 of 141 hostages taken globally and 78 of 83 seafarers kidnapped for ransom.

The region saw a significant spike in violence in the last quarter of 2018. Vessels were boarded by pirates well outside territorial waters with crew kidnapped and taken to Nigeria and held for ransom.

“There is an urgent need for increased co-operation and intelligence sharing between the Gulf of Guinea’s littoral states so effective action can be taken against pirates, both at sea and onshore where operations originate and end. There has been some improvement in the estimated number of unreported attacks in 2018 but at around 48% there is still a long way to go,” an IMB spokesman said.

In the last three months of 2018, 41 kidnappings were recorded off Nigeria. On October 27, 11 crew were kidnapped from a container vessel 70 nautical miles off Bonny Island, Nigeria. Two days later, Nigerian pirates in a speedboat hijacked a tanker underway 100 nautical miles off Point Noire, Congo. Eight of 18 crew were kidnapped. These are just two recent examples of armed criminals reaching further out to sea and targeting a wider variety of ships: bulk carriers, container vessels and general cargo vessels in addition to local attacks on tankers, oil industry support vessels and fishing vessels.

Although no ships were hijacked in the Somali region, pirates fired on a Suezmax tanker in the Gulf of Aden, as well as a product tanker and a Capesize bulk carrier more than three hundred miles from the Somali coastline. IMB urges masters to maintain high levels of vigilance when transiting these waters and follow the latest BMP recommendations. This also highlights the requirement for the continued presence of the European Union and international navies around the Horn of Africa.

Patrols by the Indonesia Marine Police have seen incidents drop for the third successive year. The majority of the 36 Indonesian reports were low level opportunistic thefts. Six crew were taken hostage and threatened, indicating the need to be vigilant.
Attacks off Sabah, eastern Malaysia, continue to be a cause of concern with five crew from two fishing boats reported kidnapped. Separately four attackers in a speedboat fired on a tug with the master shot in the leg.
Ten incidents were reported from the Philippine islands – down from 22 in 2017.

Batangas anchorage accounts for five of these. In one attack, suspected militants fired on a general cargo ship. Prompt action by the crew and Philippine Coast Guard ensured the vessel’s safety with a crew member injured by gunfire.