IMB: West Africa remains world’s top piracy hot spot

Nigerian Navy sail to intercept pirates in the Gulf of Guinea. Credit: PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images

A report by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) found that 75 seafarers were either taken hostage on board or kidnapped for ransom so far in 2019, 62 of them in West Africa; while 8 of the 9 vessels fired upon were in Nigeria.

The data show that West Africa continues to be the world’s top piracy hot spot despite an apparent year-on-year decrease in the number of attacks globally – many more are unreported, IMB suggests – from 107 to 78.

In Nigeria, where most of the attacks took place in the Gulf of Guinea, IMB noted that only 21 incidents were recorded in the first and second quarter of 2019, down from 31 in the same period in 2018. This can be directly attributed to intervention from Nigerian naval vessels, IMB said. In the past, many security consultancies and international navies have pointed out that the sunk cost of pirate attacks is so low that piracy is liable to rebound as soon as regional security presence is scaled back.

IMB urged all seafarers to remain vigilant and report all approaches by suspected pirates, no matter how innocuous. “Early detection of an approaching suspicious craft is key to prevent boarding and give time to raise the alarm and retreat into a citadel, if needed,” IMB said.

“IMB strongly urges all ship masters and owners to report all actual, attempted, and suspected piracy and armed robbery incidents to the IMB PRC globally. This first step in the response chain is vital to ensuring that adequate resources are allocated by authorities to tackle piracy. Transparent statistics from an independent, non-political, international organisation can act as a catalyst to achieve this goal.”