West Africa dominates piracy in 2020 – Report
At the backdrop of efforts of the Nigerian government in collaboration with governments of countries in the West Africa sub-region to stem piracy on the Gulf of Guinea, GoG, the Cyprus Shipping Chamber, CSC, has indicated that the region still remains the world’s hotbed of the maritime crime.
In its latest position released, yesterday, the CSC, a leading global shipping authority, said about 95 percent of global incidences in 2020 occurred within the GoG. This assessment is, however, coming ahead of the International Maritime Bureau, IMB, report on piracy sponsored by the world’s number one maritime authority, the International Maritime Organisation, IMO.
CSC expressed regret and frustration over the effectiveness of the international community efforts to address the sustained piracy crisis in the GoG region saying that most of the global maritime kidnappings during that period occurred in the Gulf of Guinea, with 80 crewmembers kidnapped in 14 attacks off Nigeria, Benin, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Ghana waters.
The Chamber also said that the time frame for the implementation of strategies initiated by Nigeria and other governments in the region may take time adding that expected results in the fight against piracy may not be in sight soon. Back in June 2020 the CSC raised grave concerns about the worsening piracy situation in the GoG and called for action by governments in the region.
It stated: “Unfortunately, the CSC is sad to observe that we have now reached the end of 2020 and despite the efforts being made by the industry, the situation remains gravely dangerous for ships trading in the GoG.” According to the last report of the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre, IMB PRC, in the first nine months of 2020, there was a 40 per cent increase in the number of kidnappings reported in the Gulf of Guinea, compared with the same period in 2019.
The CSC said it welcomes the creation of the Nigerian government and Industry Joint Working Group, NIWG, that aims to facilitate coordination between government and the maritime industry and align efforts to deter and respond to incidents of piracy and armed robbery in Nigerian territorial waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone, EEZ.
The Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure project, otherwise known as the Deep Blue Project, DBP, the new Nigerian National Maritime Reporting Framework which will support merchant vessels in distress, and enhancement of the Command, Control, Computer Communication and Information Centre, C4i, set up by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, are some of the efforts in place towards deterring the piracy incidents in the area.
However, the CSC stated: “While various efforts to improve maritime security in the region are ongoing, actual implementation will take time and consequently possible positive results are not expected in near future as this persistent problem cannot be addressed within just a few months.” In addition, it said, the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to lead to budget shortfalls which has already been observed in Nigeria as well as several other countries.
The CSC said: “It is, therefore, vital that governments, at the highest level, become far more engaged in finding a long-term solution to the crisis. International community should remain committed in the efforts of taking concrete actions towards protecting the vessels and crew operating in the Gulf of Guinea. We cannot continue to allow crews to be taken hostage, a situation which is simply unacceptable.”
Speaking on the development, a former Director of Shipping Development at the NIMASA, Captain Waredi Enisour, agreed with the concerns of the Cyprus Chamber saying that piracy is gradually dying in other regions of the world but very active in the Gulf of Guinea. Enisour also said that the issue is rife in the GoG because Nigeria does not yet have a practical means of apprehending these criminals. Enisour said: “That is true about the concern of the Cyprus Chamber of Shipping, piracy is dying off in most parts of the world, even piracy in Somalia has died down; we have no practical way of apprehending them. The deep blue project implementation has not commenced.”