JLT on Risks of Piracy and Armed Robbery in West Africa

08 August 2016

Piracy and armed robbery against vessels transiting the Gulf of Guinea continues to be a major concern to the maritime industry as incidents are becoming more widespread and violent, while an increase in the kidnapping of crewmembers has marked a shift in trends.

The reporting period from January to June 2016 has particularly been marked by an increase in kidnappings in waters off West Africa, effectively making the region the world’s piracy kidnapping hotspot. The latest figures indicate that kidnappings in this region are on the rise, with the Gulf of Guinea accounting for seven of the world’s ten kidnapping incidents that were reported during this period. From January to June 2016, a total of 44 crewmembers were kidnapped for ransom globally, with 24 crewmembers being taken in waters off Nigeria – this is up from 10 during the same period in 2015. This shift from targeting oil tankers for their cargo to kidnapping sailors is due to lower oil prices and is a trend that is likely to continue for the remainder of this year.

Pirate Action Groups (PAGs) operating in the Gulf of Guinea continue to comprise groups that vary in size. They include small, local criminal groups that are mostly active in ports and anchorages and larger groups that are capable of operating across the Gulf of Guinea. During this reporting period, PAGs boarded vessels 30 to 120 nautical miles from shore. In one incident, a vessel was hijacked 70 nautical miles south of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, crossing through waters of Ghana and Togo into São Toméan waters before the Nigerian Navy recaptured it. While PAGs targeted a wide variety of vessels, most were commercial, such as oil or chemical tankers. As in previous reporting periods, piracy activity in the Gulf of Guinea, and particularly in waters off Nigeria, continued to be characterised by a high level of violence. Of the nine vessels that were fired upon worldwide during this reporting period, eight such incidents were recorded in waters off Nigeria.

Over the coming months, it is likely that Nigeria will remain the primary source of piracy incidents in the Gulf of Guinea. Across the region, the threat of hijacking will remain high, with the threat of kidnapping for ransom of crewmembers likely to continue for the remainder of this year. While increased counter-piracy operations are needed across the Gulf of Guinea, underreporting remains an issue.

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This article was written by MS Risk, for more information please visit www.msrisk.com