The number of kidnapping cases reported in the Gulf of Guinea, off the West African coast in the first nine months of 2020 was 40 percent higher than the same period in 2019, and now accounts for 95 percent of global maritime kidnappings, the latest report by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) stated.
Eighty seafarers were taken in the Gulf of Guinea, a 2.3 million sq km (888,000 sq m) area bordering more than a dozen countries, sharply up from the same period in 2019, and the pirates are attacking further out to sea than before, the IMB said.
Piracy incidents in the Gulf of Guinea contributed to a total of 132 global attacks in the first nine months of 2020, up from 119 in the prior period.
Out of 85 sailors taken for ransom around the world, 80 were seized off the coast of Nigeria, Benin, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Ghana, the report stated.
Incidents on vessels in West African waters have been rising in recent years, with attacks targeting crew rather than the ship or its cargo. The region has overtaken Southeast Asia as the worst area for piracy and kidnappings, driving
Pirates armed with guns and knives attack everything from oil platforms to fishing vessels and refrigerated cargo ships.
In one attack 95 nautical miles off the coast, the furthest offshore attack reported in the region, pirates took 13 crew hostage, which the IMB said illustrated “how well-organized and far-reaching” the pirates are.
Experts say the bulk of the attackers come from Nigeria’s Niger Delta, which produces most of the petroleum from the country, Africa’s largest oil exporter, but the restive region has an underdeveloped economy and limited jobs for locals.
In 2019, Nigeria enacted a standalone law against piracy, and in August, a court in the oil hub of Port Harcourt made the first convictions under the legislation.
Experts said that the increased privacy activities within the West Coast water have led to increase in shipping cost and insurance for vessels plying the route.
PHOTO: Unsplash/Jamie Morrison