IHS FairPlay - Gerrard Cowan, contributor | 19 April 2018
A recent spike in armed attacks off the coast of west Africa has been driven by a range of factors, from local economic conditions to shifting tactics among pirates, according to analysts.
In early April, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported that its Piracy Reporting Centre had recorded 66 incidents in the first quarter of 2018, up from 43 in the same period last year. Of these, 29 – more than 40% – occurred in the Gulf of Guinea, compared with 7 in the area in the same period last year. Of the 114 seafarers captured worldwide, all except one were in the region, the IMB stated.
The surge in west Africa was probably due to a combination of factors, said Emma Mitchell, business director at UK security brokerage ASKET. This includes gangs “moving along the littoral to operate in less secure or monitored anchorages”, she said.
Mitchell also pointed to a change in tactics by pirates. “Rather than larger, organised groups, it is likely that smaller bands of pirates are boarding vessels with the aim of robbery and attempting hijacks if the opportunity arises,” she told Safety at Sea.
Mitchell highlighted a range of technological measures that could be taken, as well as “adapted BMP4 type measures, which are key to control access and ingress and the careful management of deck working routines”. She also said “a secure and equipped citadel has been proven to work time and again”.
The IMB report also highlighted incidents in other parts of the world. Mitchell warned that “crews should remain alert in many of the world’s riskier anchorages”, pointing to a number of areas, including southeast Asia and South America.
David Rider, an consultant for CSO Alliance echoed Mitchell’s emphasis on southeast Asia and pointed to the enduring potential of a spillover from the conflict in Yemen that could affect the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait and the Gulf of Aden.
Not included in the report due to editorial restrictions was also the following recommendation from ASKET - "Situational awareness, good lookouts, radars tuned to pick up smaller targets are all key to remaining vigilant"
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