Piracy attacks on the rise in West Africa

Increased cooperation and sharing of intelligence necessary between the Gulf of Guinea’s littoral states for action against piracy

Piracy attacks for 2018 have increased globally, with a major rise reported in West Africa, according to the International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) annual piracy report.

The report revealed that attacks have risen to 201 attacks last year, compared with 180 in 2017 and 191 in 2016.

While attacks have dipped slightly in Southeast Asia, West Africa has emerged as a major hotspot for piracy activity in 2018. The largest rise was seen in Nigeria, going from 33 attacks in 2017 to 48 in 2018.

The IMB has warned that the Gulf of Guinea remains increasingly dangerous for seafarers, with reports of attacks in waters between the Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo having more than doubled in 2018, accounting for all 6 hijackings worldwide, 13 of the 18 ships fired upon, 130 of the 141 hostages taken globally, and 78 of 83 seafarers kidnapped for ransom. “There is an urgent need for increased cooperation and sharing of intelligence between the Gulf of Guinea’s littoral states so that effective action can be taken against pirates, both at sea and on-shore where their operation originate and end,” said an IMB spokesperson.

Most attacks in 2018 (102) were on anchored vessels, rather than steaming (30) or berthed (16). Vessels being fired upon is at a five-year high, having risen from 13 in 2014 to 18 in 2018. Meanwhile, attempted attacks have risen slightly from 22 in 2017 to 34 in 2018, while successful boardings have risen from 136 in 2017 to 143 in 2018. Hijacks remain low, with only six recorded for the last two years.

Meanwhile, violent attacks have dipped, with recorded incidents by IMB revealing that no crew were assaulted or killed by pirates, while eight were injured and nine threatened. Taking crew hostage (141) and for kidnap/ransom (83) remain the most common form of pirate’s modus operandi, with most kidnaps for ransom occurring in West Africa (Nigeria (40) and Cameroon (21)), while most hostages were reported in Benin (46) and Ghana (44).