The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has expressed concern at the increasing number of attacks on ships and their crews, with the number of crew kidnapped in the Gulf of Guinea increased by more than 50% in 2019.
This year has begun with a further escalation of violence, armed robbery and kidnaping. The crisis is deepening - pirates are bolder and taking greater number of hostages, said the ICS.
The levels of violence are high, and deaths have occurred both during attacks and during the captivity of seafarers and military personnel. "This is not business as usual," ICS emphasises.
For example, 20 crew members were kidnapped from the tanker MT Duke on 15 December last year with one of those crew members dying in captivity.
Over 90% of global kidnappings reported at sea took place in the Gulf of Guinea and it remains an uncomfortable fact that the vast majority of attacks are launched on shipping from within Nigerian territorial waters, added ICS.
The International Community must respond to this threat to the lives and wellbeing of seafarers by supporting Nigeria in bringing a swift resolution to this intolerable situation, according to ICS. Practical and effective assistance should be provided to coastal states to improve their maritime security in a meaningful way, and naval assets in the region need to be prepared to respond to piracy incidents.
Speaking after the ICS Board meeting held in London, ICS chairman Esben Poulsson said: “Our absolute priority will always be the safety and welfare of the crew. We stand ready and willing to work in close partnership with the Government of Nigeria, and the international community to protect ships and their crews as they go about their legitimate business."