Increasing piracy risk at Douala anchorage, Cameroon
The effect of piracy on crew and their safety continues to be a cause for concern and transiting West African waters remains particularly difficult. In the first half of 2019, 73% of all kidnappings at sea, and 92% of hostage-takings took place in the Gulf of Guinea. While reports from previous years have shown that most attacks have occurred outside Cameroon waters, the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre has recorded three cases of piracy at Douala anchorage so far in 2019, all involving abduction of crew members.
In an effort to enhance the security for ships calling at Douala Port, the Government of Cameroon has decided to place armed security teams onboard all vessels for the duration of their stay at Douala anchorage (pilot station). The following announcement was made by the Douala Port Authority on 22 August 2019:
-Shipowners and shipping agents of vessels calling at Douala Port are hereby informed that in view of giving more security to vessels, it has been decided that each vessel at anchorage at Base Buoy (B9) will be provided by an armed security team for their protection.
-The team will remain onboard the vessel throughout her stay at anchorage and will leave after berthing
-This operation will be free of charge and will be conducted for an infinite period.
According to Gard’s local correspondent in the region, BUDD Group, the new arrangement will reduce the administrative delays incurred when completing an application for government armed guards on board. In the past, the presence of armed guards on board had to be authorized by the Ministry of Defence and the Presidency of the Republic. Vessels requiring the presence of armed guards on board were obliged to authorise their agent to complete the formalities. The process was slow and vessels rarely had the time to complete it.
We recommend ship operators to notify their Masters and crews of the new security arrangements at Douala anchorage. It is important to emphasise that there should be no additional costs associated with any armed guards entering the vessel and that they must collaborate with the security team for the success of the operation.
The correspondent states that security alongside in Douala Port is generally satisfactory but highlights the risk of stowaways. For more information about the infrastructure and activities in Douala port, please see the correspondent’s newsletter “Port Profile: Douala, Cameroon” of 6 September 2019.
We are grateful to BUDD Group for providing this information.
Warning to stay alert in the Gulf of Guinea
The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre is urging seafarers in the Gulf of Guinea region to “remain vigilant and report all suspicious activity to regional response centres and the IMB”. It emphasises that early detection of an approaching suspicious craft is key to prevent boarding and allows time to raise the alarm and retreat into a citadel, if needed.
We therefore take this opportunity to once again advise ship operators and their masters to continue to exercise caution when operating in the Gulf of Guinea and to:
-Carry out a voyage specific threat and risk assessments prior to entering the region, review the Ship’s Security Plan and adopt relevant preventive measures, following the Global Counter Piracy Guidance for Companies, Masters and Seafarers and the Interim Guidelines for Owners, Operators and Masters for protection against piracy in the Gulf of Guinea region.
-Brief the crew on the security arrangements identified in the Ship Security Plan and conduct drills prior to arriving in an area of increased risk. Many attempted piracy and armed robbery attacks are unsuccessful, countered by ships’ crew who have planned and trained in advance.
-Report to the MEAT-GOG (tel: +33(0)2 98 22 88 88 / e-mail: [email protected]). A major lesson learnt from operations against piracy and armed robbery to date is the importance of liaison with the military and law enforcement. This is an essential part of self-protection that applies to all ships. Once ships have entered the area of increased risk, it is important that they continue to report while transiting within the area. This will allow the reporting centre to update the ship of any maritime security related incidents or threats in that region.
-And last but not least, keep a proper, visual lookout! According to the Global Counter Piracy Guidance, this is the most effective method of ship protection. It can help identify a suspicious approach or attack early on, allows defences to be deployed and, can serve as an effective deterrent to would-be attackers.