Maritime firms say piracy, violence against crew, threaten flow of goods

Thursday August 12 2021
Nigerian special forces

Nigerian special forces sail to intercept pirates during a joint exercise between Nigerian and Moroccan naval team in 2019. PHOTO | AFP


Maritime companies are raising concern over increasing cases of sea piracy and violence against crews, especially in the West African region.

Some 361 organisations across the maritime industry globally have now signed the Gulf of Guinea Declaration on Suppression of Piracy, representing a call to action to put an end to scourge of piracy against ships in the region.

The companies say increasing cases will disrupt maritime trade in the continent since the route is of great global interest as it carries ships of almost every flag.

“There has been increasing cases of piracy along Gulf of Guinea with 50 crew kidnappings by pirates reported in the first seven months of this year while during the first three months of 2021, there was only one incident of reported piracy around Somalia and there are fears of increasing such cases as a result of Covid-19,” according to the latest report by the International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre (IBM PRC) and Peace and Security Council.

IMB director Michael Howlett said pirates operating within the Gulf of Guinea are well-equipped to attack farther away from shorelines and are unafraid to take violent action against innocent crews.

“It’s critical that seafarers remain cautious and vigilant when travelling in nearby waters and report all incidents to the regional authorities and the IMB PRC. Only improved knowledge sharing channels and increased collaboration between maritime response authorities will reduce the risk to seafarers in the region,” warns Mr Howlett.


West African and South American countries already struggle to police their territorial waters.

Shift in public safety concern

As hospitals fill with Covid-19 patients, the regions’ governments will almost certainly shift their public safety efforts away from sea piracy and toward more immediate concerns on land. That will create opportunities for pirates.

The disease may make it harder for crews to protect ships as well. If crew members get sick, restrictions on international travel prevent their replacements from meeting the ship in whatever port it’s in.

Slowing consumer spending around the globe means less trade, which brings less revenue for shipping companies to spend on armed guards or other methods of protecting ships against pirates. As a result, ships will likely become easier targets for pirates.

“Governments, businesses, and maritime response agencies must take appropriate measures to protect the crew, so that we can ensure the uninterrupted free flow of goods throughout international supply chains,” said International Chamber of Commerce secretary general John W.H. Denton.