Conference Held At IMO Headquarters To Eradicate Piracy At Gulf Of Guinea
At the Headquarters of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in the Gulf of Guinea, a long-day conference was held where members of the shipping community, Flag States and Agencies from the Gulf of Guinea gathered and discussed on Maritime Security.
BIMCO, IMCA, ICS, ITF, and OCIMF co-sponsored the event. The event featured speakers from regional maritime agencies as well as shipping officials, academics and military staff. The event was organized by the shipping industry, along with seafarer groups. The aim of the event was to highlight the continuing danger to seafarers operating in the Gulf of Guinea.
In opening the symposium, Dr. Grahaeme Henderson, who is Chairperson of the UK Shipping Defence Advisory Committee and Vice President of Shell Shipping & Maritime, said “Simply put, the high level of piracy and armed robbery attacks in the Gulf of Guinea is not acceptable. Yet it is happening every day and this is not business as usual. We need to take urgent action now.”
The figures that were put forward by the International Maritime Bureau supported the concern that was raised by industry regarding seafarers. The report showed that the number of attacks in the Gulf of Guinea region had doubled in 2018. The number of kidnapping for ransom and armed robbery incidents has also been increased. According to piracy expert Professor Bertrand Monnet, who has interviewed pirate gangs in the Niger Delta, estimated that the majority of attacks in the area is mostly done by 10 groups of pirates.
Dr. Dakuku Peterside, the Director General and CEO of the Nigerian Maritime Authority and Safety Agency (NIMASA), in his keynote address to the meeting, acknowledged the maritime security risks present in the Gulf of Guinea. He also stated the new initiatives underway that could improve the joint capacity of Nigerian law enforcement and Navy capabilities. These initiatives could make seafarer kidnappings escape within a few months. He also stated that he is keen to improve international cooperation, particularly the shipping industry.
According to Dr. Peterside: “We have no option but to work together, but we cannot have imposed solutions”. He also stated that “NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy will also be hosting a Global Maritime Security Conference in October to seek tailored short and long term solutions to strengthen regional and international collaborations in the Gulf of Guinea.”
The forum also included an interview that was guided by Mr. Branko Berlan, the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) Representative to the IMO. The interview was held with a seafarer who is a sufferer of a recent attack and had been kidnapped. While the seafarer is still recovering from the shock of the ordeal and did not want to be identified, he stated the attack appeared to be well organized and led from ashore. “The first indication I had of the attack was a knock on my cabin door and two men holding guns appeared.” The other members of his crew were subsequently held with him in the camp so that his release could be secured.
At the event, the speakers emphasized that the region was starting to build capacity and joint cooperation to fight maritime crime through the Yaoundé Process. This process mainly focuses on joint cooperation across the region for reporting and response. The long-term capacity building and partnerships are also sponsored by the international community.
However, an action that could be taken to create an immediate impact is the major concern of the shipping industry, seafarer groups, and the Flag States. On this note, attendees were encouraged to hear about recent Spanish Navy action to assist Equatorial Guinea to rescue seafarers from a piracy attack last month. Also, a new US program to embark law enforcement officers on regional vessels. Jakob Larsen, Head of Security for BIMCO pointed out that regional states needed to play their part as well.
“Nigerian piracy mainly affects a small geographical area of around 150 x 150 nautical miles. The problem can be solved easily and quickly, especially if Nigeria partners with international navies. Nigeria holds the key to solving this problem,” Larsen said.
A series of meetings focussing on seafarer safety and security at the IMO led to the commencement of this conference. Several member states submitting proposals that could help the crisis in response to the concerns raised over increased piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. According to Russell Pegg, Security Adviser at the Oil Companies International Marine Forum, “We are encouraging all stakeholders to take a pro-active role on this issue and are working with member states to support those proposals that could help mitigate the risks to seafarers.”
The Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Shipping, Guy Platten concluded, “It is unacceptable that seafarers are being exposed to such appalling dangers and we need the authorities to take action now.”