The International Maritime Organization (IMO) will convene a maritime security working group in May in response to the growing number of pirate attacks on ships in the Gulf of Guinea.
The working group is set to meet at the next session of the Maritime Safety Committee, MSC 103, scheduled to take place in May, to provide an opportunity for Member States and international organizations to discuss further collaboration and possible action to address the problem.
This comes even as the IMO expressed deep concern about the escalation in the number and severity of attacks in the Gulf of Guinea region and highlighted the need for ships to implement the measures in BMP West Africa.
The worries were conveyed in a circular letter by the IMO Secretary-General; Kitack Lim to all IMO member states and shipping organizations.
In the circular letter No. 4382, issued on 10 February, the IMO insisted on the need for all stakeholders to work together to restore security and reduce the threats to the safety and security of crews and vessels operating in the region.
Gulf of Guinea has been encountering an increasing number of attacks in the last years, a trend continuing also in 2021. The urgency of the situation has been underlined by the attack on the container ship Mozart on 23 January 2021, which resulted in a fatality and the kidnapping of 15 seafarers for ransom. The 15 crew members are now released, latest information over the weekend revealed.
In addition, the scribe added that IMO has been taking action to enhance the coordination of initiatives among stakeholders, including facilitating meetings with representatives of the industry, the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Interregional Coordination Centre for the Implementation of Regional Strategy for Maritime Safety and Security in Central and West Africa (ICC).
The Secretary-General also highlighted that ships need to implement the IMO endorsed Best Management Practices (BMP) for West Africa (WA) to avoid, deter, delay and report attacks. The BMP cover risk assessment, ship protection measures and reporting.
IMO intends to convene a maritime security working group focusing on the Gulf of Guinea at the next session of the Maritime Safety Committee, MSC 103, scheduled to take place in May 2021. This will provide an opportunity for Member States and international organizations to discuss further collaboration and possible action to address the existing problems.
The IMO said it is currently working with the Interregional Coordination Centre (ICC) to assist with the implementation of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct (YCC), a regional code aimed at enhancing maritime security and addressing piracy, armed robbery against ships, illegal fishing and other illicit maritime activity.
IMB's latest yearly piracy report recorded the highest ever number of crew kidnappings for the Gulf of Guinea in 2020, with 130 crew members taken in 22 separate incidents. 96.3% of kidnaps were in the region. Data by Dryad Global suggest there have been a total of 12 offshore incidents in the region this year and six successful boardings.