Monday, November 30, 2020

Twenty Four Kidnap Attacks this Year make Gulf of Guinea World Piracy Hotspot

As Four More Crew Taken Call Goes Out for Combined Naval Task Force
Shipping News Feature

GHANA – Waters just five nautical miles from the Western perimeter of the Gulf of Guinea witnessed yet another kidnapping from a merchant vessel as four crew from a complement of 23 were seized by pirates. This was the 24th such incident in 2020, a year which so far has seen a reported 122 crew taken in such a way.

The target this time was the Marshall Island’s registered 37,600 dwt chemical tanker MV Agisilaos, attacked in the early hours of 30 November, and victim of a burgeoning crime wave, with the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) figures showing a 40% increase in the number of kidnappings reported in the Gulf of Guinea this year as against 2019.

Although the Nigerian Navy has seemingly dissuaded some operations, the Gulf of Guinea is now considered a high risk area, whilst many attacks seemingly go unreported as vessels use evasive tactics to avoid the criminals. Indeed the Agisilaos swerved to starboard and cut speed according to maritime security specialists Dryad Global, a clear indication she was trying to avoid detention.

The remaining crew left on board, a mix of Russians, Romanians and Filipinos, are reported unharmed and the ship is continuing on her way. The attack is yet another sign of the desperation of the attackers and it is hard to say how many of these incidents are caused by either greed or poverty with disinformation from both sides.

This latest case, 75 nautical miles south of Lome, has prompted calls for a properly organised, international naval task force to be sent to the area, à la Operation Atalanta, which has had so much success in reducing piracy off Somalia from the heights we saw some years ago.

Photo: Piracy map of the region courtesy of the ICC IMB Piracy Reporting Centre.