Is piracy in the gulf of Guinea an issue?
We often get asked about the current piracy situation in the Gulf of Guinea and along the West African coastline. While pirate attacks have decreased in recent years due to a vigilant response from authorities there are still reasons to be aware of the risk piracy poses to commercial vessels.
Over the past year attacks in West Africa have mainly occurred in territorial waters, terminals and harbours, away from the reach of international navel forces. To patrol national waters, the Ghana Navy has recently upgraded their fleet with four new patrol vessels to enhance protection.
For us at Portside, safety is paramount. That’s why we recommend that when calling Tema, ask the agent for berthing prospects and if all berths are occupied, we advise vessels to drift at a safe distance (20-60 miles) from port limits and stay in contact with the agent.
Summary of piracy situation in West African waters
(Source: International Maritime Bureau)
Piracy in Nigeria
Pirates are often well armed, violent and have attacked, hijacked and robbed vessels and kidnapped crews along the coast, rivers, anchorages, ports and surrounding waters. Attacks have been reported up to about 170nm from coast. Pirates have hijacked vessels for several days, ransacked and looted the crew and ship properties and stolen its cargo, usually gas oil. Crew members have been injured and kidnapped during the attacks. Generally, all waters in Nigeria remain risky. Vessels are advised to be vigilant, as many attacks may have gone unreported. In early November 2014 a small group of pirates attempted to board a container vessel around 30nm off Bayelsa Coast. The attack was evaded and the vessel and crew remained safe.
Piracy in Benin
While the number of attacks has dropped significantly in the last couple of years, these waters remain an area of concern. Past attacks have showed the pirates in this area to be well armed and violent. In some incidents, vessels have reported being fired up on. Vessels have been hijacked and forced to sail to unknown locations where ship’s properties and cargos have been reported as stolen (gas oil). Crew members have been injured during some of these incidents. Joint patrols by Benin and Nigerian Authorities has resulted in a drop in the number of attacks. However, vessels are advised to continue to be vigilant and maintain strict anti-piracy / robbery watches and measures.
Piracy in Togo
Even though the reported attacks have decreased, these waters remain an area of concern. Pirates in the area are well armed, violent and dangerous. Attacks have occurred at anchorages as well as off shore and usually at night. Some attacks resulted in vessels being hijacked for several days and ransacked and part of cargo stolen (gas oil).
Piracy in Ivory Coast
Attacks have decreased but these waters remain an area of concern.
Remember to always report ALL incidents of piracy and armed robbery – actual, attempted or suspicious – to International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre. This first step is crucial, not only in regards to the immediate response procedures, but to inform and hence protect ALL vessels operating in the region.