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West Africa - Gulf of Guinea piracy evolving, developing tactics and MO may spread West #piracy #mar

Tue 27 Feb 2018 by Jamey Bergman with comment from ASKET's Emma Mitchell

Piracy is becoming a more significant problem for vessels operating in the Gulf of Guinea in spite of a worldwide drop in piracy during 2017.

International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Assistant Director Cyrus Mody told Tanker Shipping and Trade that there have been 17 incidents reported in the region in the first two months of 2018, nearly half the 36 incidents reported to the group in the whole of 2017, with the majority occurring in the waters off Nigeria and Benin.

"We have on record 15 incidents between Nigeria and Benin, and four were in the Cotonou Anchorage," Mr Mody said.

The number of incidents reported to the IMB, however, pale in comparison to those cited by Africa Risk Compliance, a security contractor and consultancy specialising in operations in Africa. Fleet operations director in the group's London office Max Williams told Tanker Shipping & Trade that the group was aware of well over 100 incidents in the region in the last 12 months.

The discrepancy – and possibly the recent uptick in piracy reports from the region – could be explained by systematic underreporting.

Mr Mody explained "There is a huge under reporting from vessels in the Gulf of Guinea, and we would hope that we are seeing these higher numbers from increased reporting in the region. We always encourage masters and operators and owners to report these incidents as soon as possible. We always alert authorities to respond to reports of piracy, but reporting also helps other masters in the area to know where incidents are occurring."

Independent shipping brokerage ASKET, which publishes its own daily security alerts for the shipping sector, said piracy strategies in the Gulf of Guinea are shifting to focus on human crew.

“We have certainly seen a change in tactics in the Gulf of Guinea over the past 12 months and it is likely that these will develop further throughout 2018,” ASKET’s business and compliance director Emma Mitchell-Biggs told Tanker Shipping and Trade.

Ms Mitchell-Biggs said protection measures such as safe anchorages, escort vessels and co-ordinated response to incidents on the part of the Nigerian Navy had made ship-to-ship siphoning thefts more difficult for pirate gangs patrolling the region.

The downturn in product theft, she said, had resulted in an increase in attacks at sea aimed at capturing crew and ships to be held for ransom.