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News: Club update on piracy and armed robbery in West Africa

02 September 2019

The club has noticed a worrying trend of an increase in acts of piracy and armed robbery occurring in West Africa, in particular in the Gulf of Guinea.

In its report from January to June 2019, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported that globally, 78 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were reported compared to 107 for the same period in 2018. However, although the number of reported incidents were down globally, the Gulf of Guinea region accounted for 43% of the reported incidents, 73% of the reported global kidnappings and 92% of the reported global hostages taken. As such, the IMB views the Gulf of Guinea as the highest risk area for seafarers and urge shipowners and operators to 'remain vigilant and report all suspicious activity to regional response centres and the IMB.'

The club has issued the following guidance to assist members when trading to areas in West Africa that may be at risk from piracy and armed robbery. Principally, we draw member’s attention to the following guidance published by the industry:

Best Management Practices to Deter Piracy and Enhance Maritime Security in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea (BMP5)

BMP 5 provides guidance for region-specific threats and aims to help mariners risk-assess voyages, and detect, deter and avoid external threats to their safety.

Although BMP5 does not exclusively focus on piracy and armed robbery in West Africa, the risk assessment section contained within part 3, although not exhaustive, goes into detail as to what a risk assessment must consider.

Global Counter Piracy Guidance for Companies, Masters and Seafarers (GCPG)

GCPG is to be read in conjunction with BMP5 and contains guidance on piracy and armed robbery to be used by seafarers around the world. The purpose of the guidance is to protect seafarers, the ship and cargo, and to facilitate threat and risk assessment and planning for voyages transiting areas where the threat of attack by pirates and armed robbers exists.

Detailed guidance is provided on actions that may be taken if the crew suspects the ship is under attack or being boarded.

Guidelines for Owners, Operators and Masters for protection against piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea region (v3) ((GoG v3)

GoG v3 is to be read in conjunction with GCPG and BMP5 referred to above and provides specific information in relation to piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea. Detailed information is provided on piracy tactics in the region, as well as guidance in case an attack takes place, or if attackers take control of the ship.

GoG v3 also provides a detailed explanation of Marine Domain Awareness for Trade – Gulf of Guinea (MDAT-GoG), which is discussed further below.

Marine Domain Awareness for Trade – Gulf of Guinea (MDAT-GoG)

MDAT-GoG was founded in 2016 and is a service operated by the French and UK navies. It provides a 24-hour manned service of military experts and aims to develop, maintain and share knowledge of security issues in the waters off Africa’s western seaboard.

MDAT-GoG administers a Voluntary Reporting Area (VRA) scheme under which merchant ships are encouraged to report position information while operating in the VRA. The VRA, as shown on Admiralty Chart Q6114, has been issued to clearly define an internationally recognised area, to encourage shipowners and operators trading off West Africa to join a trusted reporting scheme. The provision of Admiralty Chart Q6114 to all ships operating in this region is strongly recommended.

The VRA, and reporting requirements and procedures can be found in Admiralty Chart Q6114 in the attachment on the right.

For more guidance on MDAT-GoG please see page 3 of GoG v3.

The risk of piracy remains high off West Africa and we encourage members to exercise extreme caution when trading to areas that may be at risk from piracy and armed robbery. Members are strongly encouraged to comply with the latest version of BMP and other related specific guidance developed for that region, as described above.

The Standard Club is always on hand to assist. If members have any questions in relation to this publication they should not hesitate to contact the authors or their usual club contact.