Republic of Liberia has issued a Marine Security Advisory, for shipowners, operators, Company Security Officers and masters to inform them that Piracy, armed robbery, Kidnapping for Ransom (KFR) continues to be significant threats to all vessels transiting or operating in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG).
ccording to the Office of Naval Intelligence’s “Shipping Threat Reports”, 26 reported incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea occurred in the GoG region for the year 2022. This is a 59 percent decrease in the total number of incidents from the same period in 2021, whilst increased presence of international naval vessels and cooperation with regional authorities has had an impact, the threat to innocent seafarers still exists and while boardings and attempted boardings to steal valuables from ships and crews are the most common types of incidents, almost a third of all incidents involve a hijacking and/or kidnapping. There have already been two reported cases of hijacking and one case of kidnapping as of 2023.
According to the International Chamber of Commerce International Maritime Bureau (IMB) 2022 report “Trends, GoG” about 41 crew were taken hostage and 2 crew kidnapped in separate incidents. This report supports the findings of the “Shipping Threat Reports” related to incidents involving hijacking and/or kidnapping in the GoG.
The IMB report further indicates that in 2022 pirates and armed robbers operated off thirteen countries in the Gulf of Guinea (twelve countries in 2021) targeting a variety of vessels including tankers, container ships, general cargo vessels, fishing vessels, passenger vessels, and numerous vessels supporting oil drilling/production.
As of the end of 2022, Kidnapping for Ransom (KFR) groups have been of major concern regarding piracy incidents and armed robbery in the GoG mainly in the region of Nigeria. This group used motherships to support operations up to 600 nautical miles from the coast of Nigeria. Typically, these groups fire upon vessels during boardings and attempted boardings. KFR groups generally kidnap number of high-value crewmembers including the master, chief engineer, and other officers, but there were several incidents where ten or more crewmembers were kidnapped at one time. Kidnapped crewmembers are normally taken ashore in the Niger Delta region where KFR groups demand ransom payments in exchange for the safe return of the crewmembers.
All Owners, operators and Masters of Liberian flagged ships operating in or through the GoG Voluntary Reporting Area should transit with extreme caution and vigilance. For the security of human life at sea, when transiting the Gulf of Guinea and the waters near West Africa including coastal areas of the thirteen countries listed on the IMB report , all Liberian flagged vessels shall operate at security level II, continue to implement procedures in their approved Ship Security plan and be on the lookout for possible sightings of vessels engaged in piracy, or suspected to have engaged in piracy activities.
The Liberian Administration also recommends to continue to adhere to the security practices provided in these recently issued “Best Management Practices to Deter Piracy and Enhance Maritime Security Off the Coast of West Africa including the Gulf of Guinea” and also the “Guidelines for Owners, Operators and Masters for protection against piracy in the Gulf of Guinea region”