Gulf Of Guinea Witnesses 40% Rise In Kidnapping

Yemisi Izuora

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB), has reported a 40 per cent rise in the number of kidnappings reported in the Gulf of Guinea, in the first nine months of 2020, 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, IMB said in Q3 report.

As informed, there have been 132 attacks since the start of 2020, up from 119 incidents in the same period last year.

Of the 85 seafarers kidnapped from their vessels and held for ransom, 80 were taken in the Gulf of Guinea in 14 attacks reported off Nigeria, Benin, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and Ghana.

In the first nine months of 2020, seafarers reported 134 cases of assault, injury, and threats, including 85 crewmembers being kidnapped and 31 held hostage onboard their ships.

A total of 112 vessels were boarded and six were fired upon, while 12 reported attempted attacks.

The IMB warned that pirate gangs in the area are “well organized and targeting all vessel types over a wide range”.

The furthest attack from shore also involved the most crew kidnapped from a single vessel in 2020.

On 17 July 2020, eight pirates armed with machine guns boarded a product tanker underway around 196 nautical miles southwest of Bayelsa, Nigeria. They held all 19 crewmembers hostage, stole ship’s documents and valuable items, and escaped with 13 kidnapped crew.

The tanker was left drifting with limited and unqualified navigational and engine crew onboard. A nearby merchant vessel later helped the tanker to sail to a safe port.

Regional Authorities were notified and the 13 kidnapped crewmembers were released safely one month later.

The piracy centre recorded 15 attacks to ships underway in the Singapore Straits. While most are considered low level crimes, two crew were threatened, one injured and another taken hostage, indicating a continued risk to the crew. Knives were reported in at least ten of the incidents.

There has been a sharp quarterly decrease in the number of incidents within the Indonesian archipelagic, with four reported in Q3, down from 14 in Q2.

These are viewed as low level opportunistic thefts with most reported on anchored vessels.

All vessel types in the Caribbean, Central and South America – including Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, Mexico and Peru are being targeted at anchor as well as underway, and during river passages under pilotage, the report said.

No incidents of piracy have been reported around Somalia since 2018. In August 2020, pirates freed the last three of the thousands of hostages who have been held captive in the region over the years since ship hijackings peaked in 2011.

As many more cases go unreported, IMB is urging all ship masters and operators to inform, in a timely manner, the 24-hour IMB Piracy Reporting Centre of any attacks to their vessels or crew.

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