According to Dryad Global, piracy off the coast of West Africa decreased drastically in 2021, nearly halving from the previous year, although the region remains the world’s piracy hotspot, says an article published in Defence Web.
Piracy and maritime crime
“The precipitous decline in piracy throughout West Africa in 2021 saw overall incidents of piracy and maritime crime decline by 56% compared to 2020. Incidents of actual and attempted attacks and vessels being fired upon dropped by more than 85%. The number of vessels boarded throughout the region fell by 54%. Incidents of vessels being boarded, and crews kidnapped declined by 60%” the maritime risk business claimed in its annual report for 2021/22.
While overall occurrences of offshore piracy in West Africa may have decreased in 2021, the key onshore components that drive piracy and harm vessels and crews operating in the region have not changed, according to Dryad.
“The integrity of the declining trend will be conditional upon long term political investment and continued focus upon the maritime domain, which is less than assured in a country as complex as Nigeria. It would be disingenuous at best, and dangerous at worst, to interpret the decline in piracy in 2021 as indicative of a fundamental or lasting change brought about by any one state or initiative. Claims of radically reduced risks within such a short timeframe and calls for the ending of war risk premiums are premature. Whilst counter-piracy efforts in 2021 are to be commended, they require sustained investment, both politically and financially, with onshore investment arguably of greater importance than offshore assets.”
Impact of the COVID pandemic
The situation in the region has been further compounded by the impact of the COVID pandemic on national resources and international assistance.
“Without a tangible improvement in onshore conditions that create legitimate and sustainable alternatives to piracy it is extremely difficult to see that there has been or will be any substantive deterrence against individuals’ intent to participate in piracy,” Dryad stated in its rpandemi
Safety of seafarers
“Sustained efforts are however needed to ensure the continued safety of seafarers in the West African region that remains dangerous, as evidenced by the hijack of a product tanker off the coast of Ivory Coast on 24 January, during which all 17 crew were taken hostage. Reports of armed robberies have also been received within the anchorage waters of Angola and Ghana,” the IMB statement said.
Decrease in reported incidents
“This is a welcome change compared to 40 crew kidnappings in the same period in 2021. The efforts of regional and international navies also resulted in a reduction of reported incidents from 16 in the first quarter of 2021 to seven over the same period in 2022. The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre urges coastal response agencies and international navies to continue efforts to ensure piracy is permanently addressed in these risky waters.”
“The threat to innocent seafarers remains and is best exemplified with a recent attack where a Panamax sized bulk carrier was boarded by pirates 260 nautical miles off Ghana on 3 April. This illustrates that despite a decrease in reported incidents the threat of Gulf of Guinea piracy and crew kidnappings remains,” the statement reads.
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