ITF calls for urgent action on piracy following Gulf of Guinea abductions

A five-day joint military exercise between Nigeria and French navy, November 1, 2019, to perfect strategies in tackling maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea. Credit: Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP via Getty Images

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has this week called for urgent regional and international co-operation to fight piracy in the Gulf of Guinea after two recent attacks.

In October, the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau reported that the region accounts for 86% of crew taken hostage and nearly 82% of crew kidnappings around the world. Pirates kidnapped nine crew members from the Norwegian-flagged MV Bonita while the vessel was at anchor off the coast of Benin in West Africa on 2 November.

Two days later, four crew members on the Greek-flagged Elka Aristotle were taken hostage off the coast of Togo. The issues of piracy and armed robbery are long-standing in the Gulf of Guinea, although reports indicate that the frequency of such incidents has increased in recent months.

More than 60 seafarers have allegedly been captured off the coasts of Benin, Cameroon, Guinea, Nigeria, and Togo this year. Now, ITF seafarers’ section chair David Heindel is calling on the shipping industry, governments, and unions to take collaborative action on piracy.

“The entire maritime industry urgently needs to take action to improve prevention, reporting, and response to attacks across the Gulf,” Heindel said. “Coastal countries in the Gulf must work with industry and unions to identify actions, and allocate adequate resources, to reduce the risks posed to seafarers and shipping.”

He added, “While we acknowledge the difficult international regulatory environment, we must continue to build capacity and co-operation, and address the mounting human toll that these attacks are having on lives and physical and mental health transiting through the waters of West Africa.”