In its most recent piracy report, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) highlighted that West Africa and particularly Gulf of Guinea have experienced a record high in piracy incidents, as the number of crew kidnapped in the Gulf of Guinea increased more than 50% from 78 in 2018 to 121 in 2019.
To solve the issue, in October 2019, Nigeria hosted the Abuja Global Maritime Security Conference (GMSC) where delegates from various GoG states discussed some of the recent trends affecting the maritime security of the region and resulted to the fact that their navies do not have the resources needed to tackle the well-funded and well-equipped pirates.
Also, they highlighted that there is a lack of cooperation between the navies and other authorities, while they asked for more investments in infrastructure, environment, education and job creation in the Niger Delta from where many pirates are believed to emanate.
Moreover, during the Conference, the attendees noted that it is crucial to comprehensively legislate piracy and associated crimes and cooperate on a regional level including a standardisation of laws.
Yet, in efforts to combat piracy, the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has given his assent to the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Bill of 2019, in an unprecedented move to enhance security on the country’s territorial waters and exclusive economic zone.
Standard Club reports that
The club’s rules contain no definition of (or exclusion for) piracy and armed robbery. Therefore, the third-party liabilities insured by the club remain covered when they arise out of incidents of piracy and armed robbery.
How do countries deal with piracy
The territorial waters and ports of Cameroon were considered comparatively safe compared to other parts of the GoG until recently. However, since March 2019, at least two cases of piracy, involving three ships, have been recorded at Douala anchorage with several crew abducted.
For instance, in late December 2019, pirates attacked the Greek-flagged "Happy Lady" tanker from Limboh port in Cameroon and managed to kidnap 8 crewmembers out of which 5 of Greek nationality, two Filipinos and one Ukrainian.
Now, authorities are taking more steps to enhance the security onboard ships at Douala anchorage, including local armed guards on board each ship.
Since late January 2020, new steps have been taken by the Port of Contonou to protect ships whilst at port and at the anchorage.
Local authorities have advised that if a berth is unavailable for a ship, then local naval forces will assign an anchorage position to the ship and an armed guard will board the ship. This is a compulsory service however is provided free of charge.
Piracy is reported as a serious threat in the territorial waters of Ghana. Pirates are attacking ships to steal both personal belongings as well as cargo, and in some cases, crew are being taken by pirates for ransom.
Local authorities have put in place several measures including that the anchorage areas for the two major ports (Tema and Takoradi) are regularly patrolled by the security officers of Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) and the territorial waters are patrolled by the Ghanaian Navy. The regular patrols by both GPHA and the navy are said to be deterring piracy activities.
In January 2020, Ghana’s Maritime Security sector urged for more investment towards enhancing maritime security, in order to protect Ghana’s territorial waters, after the rise in maritime security threats across the West African sub-region.
The country remains a hot spot for pirates, as many are the incidents taking place. The Club alerts that ships should take all appropriate means to prevent unauthorised persons boarding either at sea, at the anchorage or whilst alongside. This includes use of razor wire, increased lookouts, pressurized fire hoses, restricted/secure access to accommodation, cargo spaces and deck stores and increased deck patrols etc.
For the time being, rather than wait at the anchorage, masters are advised to stay far from the Fair Way Buoy to minimise the chance of any piracy attack. With regards to armed guards, these can be arranged only via the Nigeria Navy, through agency channels and not via the Nigerian Maritime Police.
Although there are reports that Nigerian ports have improved, correspondents note that particular care and vigilance should be exercised by the Master when dealing with local approved service providers (such as husbandry agents, garbage disposal companies etc.). Any crew venturing ashore should be vigilant against personal robbery attacks.
If bunkering in Nigerian waters, the master and agent should insist on using only official channels. Any ship-to-ship (STS) operations, whether for bunkers or cargo, should be declared to the authorities so that they can be properly monitored.
Until late 2019, reports of piracy cases in Togolese coast were rare. However, two recent incidents have highlighted that the waters off Togo also represent a risk for ships trading in this area.
In late December 2019, six pirates boarded the Marshall Islands-flagged tanker "Duke", which was sailing from Luanda, Angola, to Lomé, Togo and abducted all 20 but one crewmembers.
Security measures have been tightened up and include a requirement for all ships in Togolese waters to have navy armed guards on board until the ship berths. The service is currently offered at no charge for ship owners. Additional armed guards are also recommended but this is not a mandatory requirement.