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Gulf of Guinea – world’s most dangerous piracy hotspot

In response to two piracy incidents over three days off the coast of Togo and Benin, both involving crews taken hostage, we reiterate our advice for vessels to operate with a heightened level of security in the Gulf of Guinea region.

The effect of piracy on crew and their safety continues to be a cause for concern and transiting West African waters remains particularly difficult. So far in 2019, the Gulf of Guinea region accounts for almost 90% of crew taken hostage and more than 80% of crew kidnappings globally, according to the International Chamber of Commerce International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

While the IMB in its report for the third quarter of 2019 published on 14 October 2019 demonstrates fewer incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships than the first nine months of 2018, it also highlights that “the Gulf of Guinea continues to be a concern for piracy and armed robbery-related activities with kidnappings of crew members increasing in both scale and frequency.”

Warning to stay alert

IMB is urging seafarers in the Gulf of Guinea region to remain vigilant and report all suspicious activity to regional response centres and the IMB. 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 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 Guidelines for Owners, Operators and Masters for protection against piracy and armed robbery 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: watchkeepers@mdat-gog.org). 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.

Further information is also available from the shipping industry’s Maritime Global Security Website: www.maritimeglobalsecurity.org.

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