Rod Lingard, Joint MD, Hellenic War Risks analysed ''The current status of Piracy in the Gulf Guinea'' at the 2015 SAFETY4SEA Athens Forum. He provided an overview of the current state of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and the differences between the Gulf of Guinea and other parts of the world. He also explained the Gulf of Guinea War Risk Additional Premium Area and looked at recent incidents. Recalling some recent claims experienced by the Hellenic he reviewed a few claims issues and discussed the present position regarding on-board guards. Finally, he looked at some solutions and discussion points.


One of the reasons that the Gulf of Guinea is different, is that ships are attacked mainly in the territorial waters when they are approaching, drifting, or anchored, closed to the ports. But occasionally, we see attacks off-shore pirates, using small high powered speed boats. The greatest risk is at night; about 70% of all the incidents are off Nigeria. The Gulf of Guinea pirates tend to be more violent than the Somali pirates. Particularly, if cargo theft is their intent, then there is not the incentive to keep the crew safe. We have an area with established legal systems, based on English or French law, unlike Somalia, where there was no real legal system in place. One of the serious activities is of course cargo theft. This tends to be predominantly in STS transfer areas and the cargo theft is intelligence led. Its organized, its not opportunistic. It tends to be targeted at product and chemical tankers. The pirates want to take the ship, the communication and the tracking equipment, if they can find it is disabled. The crew is forced to move the vessel, the cargoes transferred by STS, cash, equipment and crew valuables are stolen before the pirates depart.

Another type of serious activity is kidnap and ransom. It tends to be the senior European officers that are kidnapped and taken ashore. We have an area where ship movement reporting procedures, are less effective, certainly less effective than the Indian Ocean. Although Im detecting some improvement in reporting in the area. There is also no established policy mechanism there by the international navies. We have sovereign states with their own navies, although those navies in certain circumstances may be limited. We have a complex regional politics. We have countries that dont necessarily have a long history of regional cooperation and of course some ship protection measures are unsuitable, particularly during STS operations.

This is a map of the additional premium area in the Gulf of Guinea. For those of you who dont know how war risk insurance works, then an owner will pay a very small annual premium to keep the ship covered for the year and then if the ship goes into a riskier area an additional premium is payable. This is our additional premium area for the Gulf of Guinea. It covers the costs of Togo Benin and Nigeria and the sea area out to 3 degrees north.

Additional Premium Area

The following chart shows incidents in the Gulf of Guinea during 2014. The yellow pins are attempted attack, the oranges where the ship has been boarded; blue where the ship has been fired upon, red hijacked, purple is a suspicious approach.

Incidents in Gulf of Guinea 2014

Under-reporting in the Gulf of Guinea is thought to be very significant. Next charts show incidents during 2015 until today. We are only part way through the year but clearly there are fewer incidents. I put this point to the P & I correspondent in Nigeria and he agreed with me. He thought that there had been fewer incidents. I put the question to him then why do you think that is. He put that down to the fact that there has been a greater military presence since the election in the streets and around the port but not necessarily in the ports themselves and that may have prevented the pirates access to boats. But I also put the question to a security professional who is in Nigeria a lot and he had the opposite view. He thought that the number of incidents werent down, but what had happened was in recent months the pirates have been targeting local Nigerian coastal ships and these types of incidents are not reported to the IMB and therefore they are not picked up for the chart here. Therefore, the risk of piracy and violence at sea in the Gulf of Guinea remains high and its unlike to diminish any time soon.

Incidents in Gulf of Guinea 2015

With the types of claims that we see in the Gulf of Guinea, all the different areas of war risk cover are likely to be involved. H&M, P&I, Detention or War loss of Hire, Sue & Labor and Discretionary claims. When it comes to the duration of the incidents, with the cargo theft where the ship is taken, the ship tends to be released within a few days, perhaps a maximum of a week . With the kidnap and ransom, where a few of the crew were taken to ensure they tend to be released after negotiations in about two or three weeks. The Hellenic War Risks has seen a number of death cases and serious injuries in the Gulf of Guinea, and the other point on this, is that when the kidnapped victims have taken ashore they are not kept in very good condition. In addition to the psychological trauma, they are bitten by mosquitos, they go down with malaria, the food and water that they are given is not a very good quality. Therefore, they go down with tropical diseases and water-borne diseases. When the crew is released, they need to be hospitalized straight away before they can be returned home. In a recent case we had to use an air ambulance to repatriate the crew. On the cargo side of things, because of the way that they walk on the P&I Cover works on piracy, the cargo issues tend to be directed towards the P&I club.

Additionally, another issue is ship damage. We see ship damages in the area caused by pirates. Bullet damage if the ship has been attacked, it could be a rocket propelled grenade when the pirate boat comes alongside there can be hull damage. Also delay. Ships can be delayed through these incidents and detained. Another type of crime that I would mention as big one occurred about three years ago. While a ship anchored, pirates took the ship and the anchor was still down. The master was forced to move, the anchor drugged and the pipeline was damaged raising a claim run to 9 figures. You might say why an owner should be liable for that and in fact though even a nuisance value settlement of such a high claim was a very large figure. For the insurance professionals out there I would just suggest to you check your war loss policies to be sure that youve got an off on the P & I limit.

Regarding the guards onboard, it is questionable whether they are effective. What is effective though these escort patrol vessels? As far as Im aware, no ship has ever been taken accompanied by an escort patrol vessel. But I recognize that there is a cost involved. Certainly you need to comply with BMP4 and the Gulf of Guinea interim guidelines, risk assessment, vigorous watch keeping, keeping your routing information secure and crew awareness. In addition, staying offshore as an option, it might be what you need to think about your contractual arrangements, your charted party and your bill of lading arrangements. Use safe anchorages, there is the safe anchorage of Lagos and the two secure drifting areas further west. Again I am not aware of ships are being taken at the anchorage other safe drifting areas. Robust charter party clauses. Broad area surveillance. Ive recently heard that the Nigerians have bought a new technology that is able to track the ships within their waters, perhaps not before time. Building up the coast guards and the navies. The Nigerians assert this with this escort patrol vessels where its a joint venture between the Nigerian navy and private companies. The crew needs to be vigilant.

UK P & I recently issued a bulletin where a ship that was anchored of Lagos, a small boat arrived passing a letter onboard the ship that purported to give them authority to come onboard. Fortunately the Master checks them out and it turned down that they had no authority. The navy was called and they were arrested. Therefore, your crew needs to be vigilant. There also needs to be an onshore solution here. There needs to be economic and security governance in the regional states or it needs to be improved. That is a bit of a world-wind tour of the situation in the Gulf of Guinea at the moment.

Above article is an edited version of Mr. Lingard's presentation during the 2015 SAFETY4SEA Forum which successfullyconcluded on Wednesday 7thof October 2015in Eugenides Foundation Athens attracting1100 delegates from 30 countries representing a total of 480 organizations.

Click here to view his presentation video