News: Increased piracy and kidnap threat in the Gulf of Guinea
30 November 2020
High risk area
The club continues to closely monitor maritime security threats, especially in the hotspot region of the Gulf of Guinea given the recent increase in piracy and armed robbery incidents there. As reported by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) in its third quarter report for 2020, there has been a 40% increase in the number of kidnappings in the region compared with the same period in 2019. The IMB reports goes on to say that ’pirates armed with guns and knives are abducting bigger groups of seafarers at further distances off the West African coast' and that pirate gangs in the area are 'well organised and targeting all vessel types over a wide range'.
The Gulf of Guinea has been a high risk area for some time as designated by the LMA joint war committee. However, the high risk area definition for the region was recently expanded to reflect the enhanced risk of the pirates operating in a much wider area (see further in the club’s circular).
How to avoid pirate and armed robbery incidents
The increased threat level prompted a recent joint industry group, including BIMCO, to issue a joint statement advising vessels operating in the Gulf of Guinea to be extra vigilant and ensure all appropriate security measures are taken.
Members with ships who may transit high risk areas are strongly encouraged to comply fully with all the recommended best management practice (BMP) planning, voyage and reporting procedures. The BMP are kept under review and version 5 reflects practical lessons learned by the industry and by the military regarding effective methods to deter and defend against piracy. Guidance is also available specifically in relation to West Africa following the publication of BMP West Africa. The fundamental requirements set out in this guidance include:
- Understanding the threat by obtaining current threat information
- Conducting risk assessments
- Implementing ship protection measures
- Registering and reporting with Maritime Domain Awareness Trade - Gulf of Guinea (MDAT-GOG)
- Cooperating with local naval and military forces
How the club can assist
The club has an internal maritime security team who regularly produce articles and updates on maritime security trends and issues on the club’s website. A representative of this team sits on the International Group’s (IG) maritime security subcommittee and actively participates in discussions on maritime security issues including but not limited to piracy and armed robbery at sea, and the provision of club cover.
With the club's participation, the IG's FAQs on piracy were updated in 2019 to reflect various developments since the previous version was published in 2013. The FAQs provide a useful summary of number of important issues including the scope of club cover, exclusions, the interrelationship between different underwriters, private maritime security contractors (PMSCs), BIMCO GUARDCON, insurance for PMSCs, Best Management Practices, West Africa, ransoms and chartering issues.
Following the spate of kidnapping incidents in the Gulf of Guinea, especially in 2020, members are reminded that third-party P&I liabilities arising out of incidents of piracy will, provided the ‘weapons of war’ or terrorism exclusions are not triggered, be covered by the club. However, ransom is not a risk which is expressly covered under a member’s P&I entry but cover may be available on a discretionary basis. Similarly, fees and expenses incurred in connection with ransom negotiation may only be covered on a discretionary basis. One issue relevant to the exercise of that discretion is the availability of alternative insurance. With this in mind, kidnap and ransom (K&R) cover for shipowner members transiting high risk piracy zones is available in the market. Members are strongly encouraged to consider taking out K&R cover where appropriate.