Piracy in Somalia is making a comeback and the Gulf of Guinea remains the world’s most active hotspot for crew kidnappings, UK Chamber of Shipping said quoting latest data.
The report said that during the first three months of 2017, armed pirates hijacked two vessels off the coast of Somalia, an area in which previously no merchant ship had been hijacked for five years.
Four further incidents in the region were also attempted this past quarter, according to the latest report from the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB PRC).
Meanwhile, in the Gulf Guinea, armed robberies and kidnappings were as prolific as ever during the first quarter. Nigerian pirates and armed robbers were responsible for 17 of the 27 kidnaps reported worldwide during the first three months of this year, the report said.
Crew were kidnapped from three vessels – a general cargo ship, a tanker and a bulk carrier – all of which were attacked while underway 30 to 60 nautical miles off Nigeria’s Bayelsa coast.
IMB has noted a recent uptick in attacks occurring in the Bayelsa area, as well as off the coast of Brass, Bonny Island and Port Harcourt in Nigeria. Last week, six seafarers were kidnapped from a general cargo vessel that was underway just 20 nautical miles from the shore.
The UK Chamber recognises that guards should continue to be employed in order to keep ships safe – but says we cannot see these guards as a long-term solution to the pirate problem and not in the Gulf of Guinea, unless provided by local governments. For that, we need the help of government to tackle piracy at its roots – on land.
In Somalia and, to a large extent, in West Africa, pirates and armed robbers are criminal gangs, who operate for their own personal gain and to whom it is legal for shipowners to pay ransoms, he says. Their demands are usually monetary in nature, rather than political or military.
“We have close contact with the ReCAAP organisation and our liaison office in Singapore and we would encourage local law enforcement agencies to do their utmost to contain this new threat,” says Gavin Simmonds from the UK Chamber.
The UK Chamber’s priorities regarding piracy are: seafarers first, trade second. We need to act to ensure the safety of those working onboard vessels in high-risk areas, while also ensuring the free flow of trade, on which so much of the UK economy depends. Nevertheless, the chamber is mindful that the threat of piracy and vessel attacks continues to evolve.