Recently, Dryad Global highlighted the issue of travel restrictions affecting the placement of armed guards onboard vessels, noting that on a large volume of transits through the Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden and Southern Red Sea, the embarkation of Armed Security is an unnecessary cost.
During this period of instability, it is key that vessels, vessel owners and the maritime community rely on clear-headed, data-driven and reliable solutions, which will facilitate economic activity within this new reality.
West Africa is a hot spot for maritime crime and piracy; Thus, COVID-19 spread throughout sub-Saharan Africa will overwhelm healthcare systems and become most states main priority, meaning that efforts to mitigate regional maritime crime in West Africa will likely be neglected.
Therefore, with the heightened risk that security responses are hampered due to widespread infection, it is unlikely there will be a decrease in piracy incidents and a partial increase is eminently possible. Nigeria is likely to remain the epicentre of West African maritime security issues, with any downturn in vessel volume unlikely to alter the current trend.
For the time being, Dryad is assessing the impact of the pandemic on piracy in the Indian Ocean as minimal, with a slight increase in the number of accidents reported in the Gulf of Aden in 2020, but none of the reported incidents have been confirmed as acts of piracy. Yet, it is commented that the spread of COVID-19 in the key risk areas in the Indian Ocean will not significantly change the situation as is in the short to medium-term.
In addition, as states increasingly restrict the movement of citizens, trade is likely to be exacerbated in areas such as the Gulf of Guinea, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman and the Malacca Strait, where black market activity has been observed in the past.
Consequently, the economic consequences in these areas may lead to an increase in illicit maritime trading.
Where there is evidence of longer-term economic impact then it is likely that there will be an increase in incidents.
Libya has seen a rise in migration in recent years; Dryad argues that with a breakdown in Libyan state administration a possible consequence of the pandemic, it is likely increasing numbers of potential migrants could feel they face improved odds in Europe. This in turn may increase the chances that vessels in the Mediterranean have to assist migrant vessels in distress, but would simultaneously raise the prospect of migrants who carry COVID-19 being a health concern to vessel crew.
Moroever, it is commented that the states that already see domestic agendas, are most likely to suffer violence and disorder in the short to medium term as COVID-19 spreads. While, the frequency of these events may worsen, as governments will be overwhelmed, focusing on health systems and unemployment.
Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic is an ever changing situation which severely affects the shipping industry. Vessels which are security aware will still be able to trade, but to trade securely will require precise, real-time, data-driven solutions.