No Space for Complacency as African kidnap numbers rise

Shipowners' organisation Bimco has urged Nigeria to step up efforts to safeguard seafarers as more and more crew are kidnapped from vessels in the Gulf of Guinea. The plea from the Danish-headquartered body came as the Joint War Committee (JWC) of the Lloyd's Market Association (LMA) redrew the listed extended risk area in the West Africa region.

Having covered only the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Togo, Benin and Nigeria north of latitude 3 degrees north since 2013, the update now includes areas further to the south and east between Lome in Togo and Cape Lopez in Gabon.

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West Africa piracy

TradeWinds News spoke to Dryad Global's team about the uptick in piracy incidents off West Africa as part of their research.

Analyst Munro Anderson, of security consultancy Dryad Global, told TradeWinds that some incidents are related to "criminal disputes and inter-syndicate activity. However, the evidence suggests this number is small," he said.

"In addition, we see the increasing prevalence of incidents beyond the traditional heartlands of the Nigerian EEZ as being indicative of a growing trend of insecurity."

Premiums also increasing

Chris Goddard, CEO, founder and underwriter of marine war risks at Vessel Protect, said additional premiums have increased in 2020 due to a proliferation of piracy in West Africa in both the marine war and kidnap and ransom market.

"The expansion of the Gulf of Guinea notification area is in direct response to the broadening of sustained attacks in the region which began increasing in 2019. The JWC’s decision will increase costs for shipowners operating in the region," he added.

"However, those who widely adopt best management practice (BMP) and engage in risk mitigation measures such as transit risk assessments conducted by independent maritime security experts will continue to see preferable insurance terms over their peers."

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JWC acting quickly enough?

Another Dryad Global analyst, Shannon McSkimming, said incidents in the revised risk area would have made up 30% of all incidents in the JWC West Africa region, had the change been implemented last year.

"The trend that we’ve seen emerging since 2017 coexists alongside a lack of incident reporting in the Indian Ocean. This raises significant questions over the timeliness and responsiveness of the JWC in responding to the evolving nature of the risk and in turn the perceived heightened risk across the region," McSkimming said.

Dryad explained that Nigerian gangs are seeking to capitalise on opportunities that lie beyond Nigeria’s EEZ, where vessels are less likely to be hardened against attack and less likely to have BMP West Africa recommendations in operation.

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