Home Maritime Digest Tension increases over piracy on Nigerian waters in 2021

Tension increases over piracy on Nigerian waters in 2021

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Omenihu Alfred

Piracy and armed robbery on the world’s seas have been on the rise since last year 2020 and from all indications, the tension is getting hotter as we step into 2021. According to a new report issued by the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) which highlighted a dramatic increase of activity off West Africa said incidents in other areas including the Indonesian archipelago and off Somalia were down or remained under control.

Attacks on vessels so far in 2020 were fairly evenly split between tankers, bulk carriers, and container ships as well as other types of vessels. While vessels are rarely attacked at berth, the largest number of incidents are on vessels at anchor but there also was a significant number of assaults on vessels underway.

“ Those who work in the ship are facing exceptional pressures due to Covid-19, and the risk of violent piracy or armed robbery is extra stress. The rise of attacks reported in the Gulf of Guinea was especially significant. According to the IMB’s data, there was a 40 percent increase in the number of kidnappings reported in the Gulf of Guinea, compared with the same period in 2019. Pirates armed with guns and knives are abducting bigger groups of seafarers at further distances off the West African coast the report says. With approximately 95 percent of global kidnappings reported from within the Gulf of Guinea waters, IMB warns that pirate gangs in the area are “well organized and targeting all vessel types over a wide range.”

With the enormous havoc wrecked by the activities of the pirates in the Gulf of Guinea last year, shippers and seafarers still operate in fear as to what the year holds for the seaborne trade especially with the sharp rise in the last months of 2020. In November alone, 36 seafarers were kidnapped from five vessels, including a product tanker managed by Evangelos Marinakis-controlled Capital Ship Management. General cargo ships, a bunker tanker, and a heavy lift ship were also raided.

The Gulf of Guinea’s coastal water constitutes a central shipping lane and experiences high piracy threats. Pirates regularly target commercial ships, bulk carriers, cargo ships, and crews. Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea continues to spread, with several new hotspots emerging in recent months.

Speculations have it that Nigeria would likely remain the most prone to piracy and maritime-related kidnappings in the foreseeable future if drastic actions were not taken to curtail the trend.

According to the President, the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero, the situation prevails because there is no political will to tackle it.

“What our leaders don’t realize is that if they fail to use their offices to solve the problems of this country, they will come back to suffer with the masses.

“War against piracy on Nigerian waters is expected to be coordinated between the Nigerian Navy and NIMASA. If the government feels that NIMASA cannot do it, they should create another agency in the mold of the Coast Guard of America.
“When you talk about piracy, it has a political undertone. Nobody knows, it is just like you are talking about Boko Haram. So, I will urge the Federal Government to brace up and restore security in the nation’s territorial landscape, both on waters and land.” He said.