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FROM OUR CORRESPONDENTAFRICA


specialist vessels, such as heavy lift ships and barges.


HLPFI readers may recall the attempted attacks on the Crowley-managed, Intermarine-operated heavy lift vessel Ocean Atlas off Lomé, Togo, in November 2012. At the time of the attack, the vessel was anchored waiting to take on bunkers. The crew and the security team on board together managed to fend off the attackers. Other heavy lift and project cargo vessels have been attacked off Somalia, including units of the BBC Chartering fleet. Although not able to interfere politically or judicially in West Africa, the IMO has been involved in maritime technical assistance projects in the region for many years and it established a regional presence in West Africa in 1999. The organisation currently has two regional coordinators based in Côte d’Ivoire for West and Central Africa (Francophone) and Ghana for the Anglophone countries, the IMO said in a recent statement. Most of the attacks emanate from Nigeria, itself dogged by political corruption and internal strife for many years, which does not appear to be reducing anytime soon. The Gulf of Guinea pirates are a totally different breed to their counterparts in Somalia. They appear to be only interested in cargoes and anything else they can find on board ship, such as seafarers’ belongings, rather than hijackings of vessels, crew and cargo for ransom purposes, as seen in the Indian Ocean/Gulf of Aden theatre.


Violence


The main worry for owners and operators is that the Gulf of Guinea pirates tend to be much more violent in their approach to vessels’ crews, especially when robbing them of their personal belongings. To counteract the Somali pirates, a few years ago we saw the emergence of private maritime security companies (PMSCs), many of which offer armed guards. They were embraced by owners, operators and flag states alike under certain conditions, becoming an accepted deterrent in the Indian Ocean/Gulf of Aden area, although costly to the shipowner or operator. Indeed, there have been no attacks reported on vessels carrying armed guards, showing that the system appears to work. Today, piracy in the Indian Ocean/Gulf of Aden region has been reduced to just a few isolated instances, but the PMSCs and the various organisations involved, including the IMO, the EU and NATO, have warned against complacency and told owners and operators not to drop their guard or refrain


36 July/August 2013


Heavy lift and project cargo vessels have been attacked off Somalia, including BBC Chartering ships.


from instituting the industry’s Best Management Practice initiative, now up to No 4 (BMP4). However, in the West African and


Central African states, the import of guards and weapons is by and large illegal, although an agreement has been signed with the Cape Verde Islands by certain flag states, whereby armed guards can be embarked on a vessel if calling at Cape Verde.


Some of the PMSCs have advertised that they can get armed guards through certain Gulf of Guinea countries and on board ships. However, is it smart practice to initiate a firefight on, or around, a very expensive vessel carrying delicate equipment or dangerous chemicals, thus putting the crew in danger?


Last April, the Piracy Reporting Centre of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) issued a statement on the number of incidents reported in the first quarter of this year. It is fair to point out here that not all incidents are reported to the authorities, although it is thought that at least two thirds are reported and documented. According to the IMB, in January to March, 2013, some 66 incidents took place worldwide, which is a considerable reduction on the 102 incidents reported for the corresponding period in 2012. In the first three months of 2013, four vessels were hijacked, 51 vessels were boarded, seven were fired upon and four


The main worry for owners and operators is that the Gulf of Guinea pirates tend to be much more violent in their approach to vessels’ crews.


reported attempted attacks. Some 75 members of crew were taken hostage, 14 kidnapped and one killed.


Upsurge


Illustrating the upsurge of attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, the IMB reported that 15 incidents were recorded in this region, including three hijackings. Nigeria accounted for 11 of these incidents and guns were reported to be used in at least nine of these attacks. An offshore supply vessel with 15 crew members was also hijacked. In another incident, one crew member subsequently died as a result of a gunshot wound after a chemical tanker was fired upon at anchorage in Lagos. A further 14 crew were kidnapped from four different vessels in Nigeria. All the vessels were reported to be under way at the time of the kidnappings. Further west in Africa, three incidents were recorded in Cote d’Ivoire, including the hijacking of two tankers. In early February 2013, a tanker was taken while under way 70 miles south of Abidjan and sailed to Nigerian waters. On the eastern side of Africa, Somalia recorded five incidents during the quarter. In the Indian Ocean, two vessels were fired upon. There were also two attempted attacks against Aframax tankers in the Gulf of Aden. Outside African waters, Indonesia was the country that recorded the highest number of attacks, with 25 incidents. While these were mainly low-level thefts, vessels were boarded in 24 of the incidents. Vessels were either berthed or anchored in 22 of the boarded incidents and under way in the remaining two. Vessels anchored at Dumai, Balikpapan and Belawan were targeted six, five and three times respectively. HLPFI


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