56 Mariners Kidnapped in Gulf of Guinea in 2017

Executive Secretary, Nigeria Shippers Council, Barrister Hassan Bello (r) with the Assistant Inspector General (AIG) Maritime Police Command, Alkali Baba Usman, during a courtesy visit to the council last week in Lagos.

Even though the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Dr. Dakuku Peterside  has said that reports of pirates attacks in Nigeria is exaggerated, there are indications that attacks within Nigeria’s territorial waters have been on the rise.

 More worrisome is the revelation yesterday that at least 56 seafarers have been killed in 2017 alone in serial attacks by daredevil pirates across the volatile Gulf of Guinea, where Nigeria is a most prominent maritime actor. 

But, the Director General of  NIMASA; Dr. Dakuku Peterside assured that the agency is working with stakeholders and the global maritime community to ensure that the menace of piracy is totally stamped out in the Gulf of Guinea in order to allow for free flow of trade in the region.

 The NIMASA DG who spoke on the sideline of the G7++ group summit held in Lagos stated that the fact that the Italian government decided to hold the meeting in Lagos Nigeria, which is the first time outside Europe shows that they believe in the country’s efforts to fight piracy and other criminal activities in the Nigeria and in the Gulf of Guinea. 

But, according to renowned maritime security firm; Dryad Maritime, there seem to be no signs of piracy abating in the Gulf of Guinea, with the number of attacks ramping up off Bony Island over the past few weeks. 

In its latest report which was released yesterday and which was received by Shipping Position Daily, the global body said that there have been 15 attacks against commercial ships reported within a 60 nautical miles radius of Bony Island over recent weeks. 

It lamented that, ‘’unfortunately, it is the seafarers who pay the highest price as they ended up being held for ransom as a highly-valued commodity. Sometimes, their ordeal lasts for years as talks between shipowners and pirates hit a stalemate. Other times, they are left to be rescued by maritime forces or they manage to escape. 

This year alone, 56 mariners have been kidnapped off the Niger Delta, Dryad Maritime said. 

This is despite the efforts of the Nigerian Navy to detain those responsible for the recent attacks, even though they are said to have the description of an alleged mother vessel preying on the vessels in the region. 

Dryad Maritime forecasts that the attacks against shipping in the Gulf of Guinea are likely to continue their target being kidnapping seafarers for ransom. 

Speaking further, Dr. Peterside noted that NIMASA has also gone a step further to tackle piracy from four broad approaches namely; Legal framework through an anti-piracy bill, which will soon be passed to law, thereby making Nigeria the first country in the whole of Africa to formulate such policy. 

Others are; acquisition of military hardware, through partnership with an Israeli firm, which will enhance our response capabilities to criminal activities, enhancing our intelligence gathering system and regional integration and collaboration through working with other African countries. 

“No piracy begins and ends in one jurisdiction; when there is a hot pursuit, they shift to another region and on our part, we are determined to give them a hot chase through our partnership and other collaboration with other countries in the region”.