The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has called for urgent action to deter and resolve attacks on ships in the Gulf of Guinea, following several piracy incidents including an attack on a container ship in January, which resulted in a fatality and the kidnapping of 15 seafarers.
On January 23, the container ship Mozart suffered the above attack while on February 7, the oil/chemical tanker M/V SEA PHANTOM was boarded by suspected pirates on the seas off Sao Tome and Principe.
In the latter case, a helicopter from Equatorial Guinea arrived on the scene causing at least eight people who had boarded the vessel to flee the ship, fortunately leaving the crew to be found uninjured in the tanker’s intact citadel.
Kitack Lim, secretary-general of the IMO, expressed his concern regarding the escalation in the number and severity of attacks on ships and crew in the Gulf of Guinea region.
He 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.
In a circular letter, Lim said that the IMO was taking action to enhance the coordination of initiatives among stakeholders, including facilitating meetings with representatives of the industry.
These representatives include 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.
The 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, providing an opportunity for member states and international organisations to discuss possible action.
Currently, the UN’s maritime regulator is working with the 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.
The IMO West and Central Africa Maritime Security Trust Fund enables the IMO’s maritime security capacity-building programme to assist Gulf of Guinea coastal states as well as regional centres under the framework of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct.