The four-year-old Maritime Information Co-operation and Awareness (MICA) centre’s latest annual report points out maritime insecurity in Africa’s Gulf of Guinea remains high while on the other side of the continent it is low.
The total number of incidents related to piracy and robbery at sea has remained stable over the past four years, with 360 incidents reported worldwide in 2019. Last year’s figure is almost double the number reported in 2011, the highest since recordkeeping of piracy incidents started.
“Maritime insecurity related to piracy and robbery remains high in the Gulf of Guinea, particularly at the upper angle of the Gulf where incidents are marked by an increase in the number of kidnappings and a critical level of violence,” the report states, adding maritime insecurity in the Indian Ocean remains at a low level with the number of incidents “limited”.
There were 54 incidents of piracy and robbery at sea in Nigerian sea approaches in 2019, giving the body of water the unwanted epithet of being the riskiest sea approach in the world. Second was Indonesia with 30 reported attacks and incidents and Grenada, an island in the French Antilles in the West Indies, was third with 28 reported incidents.
The only other African country on the MICA top 10 attack list is Cameroon, coming in at seventh with 11 reported attacks and incidents. Also on the top 10 list are St Vincent and the Grenadines (18), Malaysia (16), Panama (12), Venezuela (seven) and Columbia and Peru (six each).
On the Gulf of Guinea the MICA reports points out an increase in the total number of incidents. This situation, the report states, is due to robberies committed while vessels are either at anchor or in port. Among reasons for this are bad weather conditions between June and October last year which “forced criminals to operate along the coastline”.
Weather conditions also appear to drive criminal activity with the majority of incidents and attacks during the November/March period, traditionally a drier time.
Last December five kidnappings, involving 53 hostages, were reported. This is 30% more than for the same period in 2018.