West Africa remains piracy hotspot despite global drop in 2021 – report

The Gulf of Guinea region, which houses Nigeria and other West African countries, has continued to be the world’s piracy hotspot despite the global decline in the number of reported attacks on ships and onboard crews, the annual piracy report of the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB), published on Thursday, January 13, 2022, has revealed.

According to the report, maritime piracy and armed robbery attacks reached the lowest recorded level since 1994 as the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre received 132 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in 2021.

The report gave a breakdown showing that while 115 vessels were boarded, there were 11 attempted attacks, five vessels were fired upon and one vessel was hijacked.

IMB attributed the drop in the global piracy incidents to vigorous action taken by authorities, but also called for continued coordination and vigilance to ensure the long-term protection of seafarers’ onboard vessels.

In the Gulf of Guinea region, the report stated that the region has seen a decrease from 81 reported incidents in 2020 to 34 in 2021, which is attributed to a decline of activity reported within the region.

IMB further reported that while kidnappings at sea dropped 55 percent in 2021, the Gulf of Guinea continues to account for all kidnapping incidents globally, as 57 crews were taken in seven separate incidents in the year under review.

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The report however stated that the increased presence of international naval vessels and cooperation with regional authorities has had a positive impact – including Royal Navy Warship and the robust actions of the Royal Danish Navy in neutralising a suspected pirate action group in late November.

While the regional decrease is welcomed, the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre warned that the threat to seafarers persists and it urged crews and vessels plying these waters to be cautious as the perpetrators remain violent and the risk to crews remains high.

This, IMB said, was evidenced by the kidnapping of six innocent crews from a container vessel in mid-December.

“The IMB commends the robust actions of the international navies and regional authorities in the Gulf of Guinea which appears to have positively contributed to the drop in reported incidents and ensuring continued safety to crews and trade,” Michael Howlett, director of IMB, said.

Howlett further called on the coastal states of the Gulf of Guinea to increase their collaboration and physical presence in their waters to ensure a long-term and sustainable solution to address the crime of piracy and armed robbery in the region.

Continuing, Howlett said: “While the overall reduction in global reported incidents is welcomed, the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre urges coastal states to acknowledge the inherent risk from piracy and armed robbery and robustly address this crime within the waters of their exclusive economic zone.”

Howlett said that the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre remains committed to actively engaging and exchanging information with coastal states to promote safety for seafarers and trade.

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