Abductions up more than 50% in Gulf of Guinea in 2019

Nigerian Navy Special Boat Service commandos at a sea training exercise. Credit: Beegeagle

Pirate abductions in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) went up by more than 50% in 2019, with a sharp rise in the fourth quarter, according to the annual report of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

Last year, pirates kidnapped 121 seafarers in the GoG compared with 78 in 2018. There was an alarming increase in kidnappings in the fourth quarter of 2019 with 64 seafarers kidnapped in six separate attacks.

Overall, the GoG accounted for more than 90% of global kidnappings at sea in 2019, up from 82% in 2018. “We remain concerned that this region has recorded an unprecedented rise in crew kidnaps,” said Michael Howlett, director of the ICC IMB.

“These latest statistics confirm the importance of increased information exchange and co-ordination between vessels, reporting, and response agencies in the GoG region. Without the necessary reporting structures in place, we will be unable to accurately highlight the highrisk areas for seafarers and address the rise of piracy incidents in these persistently vulnerable waters.

On 9 January 2020, the Chinese government worked with the Nigerian military police to rescue four Chinese fishermen who were abducted off Gabon. Eight seafarers were captured from the products tanker Happy Lady off Cameroon in the incident.

Despite sharp rise in the violent kidnappings in the GoG, the numbers of piracy and armed robbery incidents against ships declined last year. In 2019, there were some 162 incidents reported to the IMB compared with 201 in the previous year.