Gulf of Guinea - a cause for concern

Apr 15 2016

The Gulf of Guinea continued to blight an otherwise cautiously optimistic piracy analysis thus far this year.

In its first quarter 2016 piracy analysis, Dryad Maritime said that from January to March, the region saw a surge of industrial sabotage ashore, and offshore. The activity of pirate action groups (PAGs) operating with impunity in the face of overstretched Nigerian naval patrols has surged.

Around 14 commercial vessels were attacked off Rivers and Bayelsa States, with eight raids classified as ‘unsuccessful’ due to evasive manoeuvring or the crew’s evasion of capture by retreating to their ship’s citadel.

In six of these incidents, 23 crew members were kidnapped for ransom, which is proving to be a far more effective business plan for PAGs than hijacking product tankers for cargo (instances of which have fallen dramatically in the last 18 months), despite one unsuccessful attempt which was thwarted by Nigerian forces in February, Dryad said.

In Southeast Asia, this region had seen a 50% drop in reported maritime crime compared to the same period in 2015 - the lowest figures recorded by the security company in 10 years.

Similarly, the end of 1Q16 represented the longest period without attacks on vessels underway or at anchor within the Singapore Strait since 1Q13. 

Somali piracy continued to be broadly contained with no confirmed attacks on large vessels since January, 2014, despite some commentators’ views that the pirates continue to ‘probe.’

Ian Millen, Dryad Maritime COO, said; “The first three months of 2016 have visibly demonstrated the dynamic nature of maritime crime and how effective action to combat it can turn the tide in favour of the good guys. There are some welcome causes for optimism in certain regions, notably the Indian Ocean where Somali piracy remains broadly contained, and in Southeast Asia, where we have seen a remarkable turnaround in a little over six months to deliver our lowest first quarter figures in a decade.

“In other areas, such as the Gulf of Guinea, the picture is a less positive one, with kidnap of crew for ransom rampant off the Niger Delta. Wider concerns, from the effects of civil war and concerns over maritime terrorism to the impact of humanitarian crises, such as maritime migration, continue to focus the minds of all with duty of care responsibilities for ships, crew and passengers, but these are manageable issues with proper planning and support.

“Despite the good progress in some regions, we should avoid complacency at all costs. Criminal enterprises are adaptable and flexible and unencumbered by ethics, morality or international corporate law. No less business savvy than legitimate, law-abiding businesses, they can and will adapt to changing market conditions, finding new, less risky and more profitable ways of making their ill-gotten gains.

“The drop off in cargo theft and increase in kidnap activity in the Gulf of Guinea, could be one such example of this adaptability. Keeping one step ahead of the criminals is the key to what we do and how we help our clients,” he concluded. 

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