Kidnapping of vessels surges by 50% off West Africa – Report

West Africa’s coastline has recorded a 50% increase in kidnapping of sailors last year, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) annual report revealed on Tuesday.

According to the maritime watchdog, the number of sailors kidnapped off West Africa rose to 121 last year from 78 in 2018 in the Gulf of Guinea. It represents 90% of global kidnappings at sea reported worldwide.

The report said incidents of piracy had declined in 2019 but “vessels remain at risk in several regions, especially the Gulf of Guinea”.

The region accounted for 64 incidents including all four vessel hijackings that occurred in 2019, as well as 10 out of 11 vessels that reported coming under fire.

The Gulf of guinea is considered among the most dangerous waters in the world. It stretches from Angola in the south to Senegal in the north.

“These latest statistics confirm the importance of increased information exchange and coordination between vessels, reporting and response agencies in the Gulf of Guinea region,” said Michael Howlett, director of IMB.

Last month, the US Maritime Administration issued an Advisory on the issue of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, noting that many operations occur around the Niger Delta and target vessels (tankers, tugs, offshore supply vessels, and cargo vessels) with expatriate crew, due to their potentially high ransom value.

Motherships have been used to support kidnapping for ransom operations up to 150 nautical miles offshore. The pirates have been known to fire upon targeted vessels prior to attempting to board them. They generally kidnap two to six high-value crewmembers that include the master, chief engineer, and any Western crewmembers.

For the first time, Somalia reported zero piracy incidents, yet the IMB advises that vessels and crews remain cautious when travelling through the region.

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