Naval Presence in Gulf of Guinea Key for Seafarer’s Safety

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  • Gulf of Guinea piracy has evolved from near-shore robbery to open sea piracy and the violent kidnapping of crew members for ransom.
  • To keep seafarers safe and discourage attacks, ships working in the Gulf of Guinea need a naval presence that actively enforces International Maritime Law with robust mandates.
  • A long-term resolution requires collaboration with governments in the area to address the criminals’ bases, sources of finance and corruption, as well as criminal justice support.

A recent news article published in the World Economic Forum reveals that how to address piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and protect seafarers.

Living under threat

This is not what we would call a safe and humane working environment.

Yet this is the reality today for hundreds of thousands of seafarers on vessels that transit or enter the Gulf of Guinea, and hundreds of seafarers have already suffered piracy attacks or been kidnapped and are now living with the trauma.

Not to mention those who have paid with their lives.

The threat is real and persistent. Gulf of Guinea piracy has evolved from near-shore robbery to open sea piracy and the violent kidnapping of crew members for ransom.

In 2020, 136 seafarers were abducted at gunpoint, held for weeks and months, suffering serious injury to their physical and mental wellbeing.

This year, we are seeing an even steeper increase in the frequency and ruthlessness of the attacks unleashed on shipping.

Law enforcement desperately needed

It is time that this hidden humanitarian tragedy is brought into the open and gets the attention it deserves.

The pirates in the Gulf of Guinea have high levels of resolve, weaponry and fighting skills. Vessels that go into the area adhere to best practices, keeping lookouts, speeding up, mounting fire hoses for protection and training to handle an attack.

Some also take on armed guards. But even that isn’t stopping the pirates, who won’t hesitate to engage in full-on firefights.

To keep seafarers safe and discourage attacks, the ships and crews working in the Gulf of Guinea need a naval presence that actively enforces International Maritime Law with robust mandates.

What naval presence there is today, is not primarily focused on piracy and is not coordinated.

Law enforcement operations can be further optimised through shared awareness and deconfliction of naval activities as successfully seen in fighting Somali piracy.

To date, only a very few countries have actively engaged in enforcement of International Maritime Law.

We are grateful to the states that have committed naval vessels to the area, and to those regional countries who have increased law enforcement at sea, but much more is needed to ensure safe passage for ships and seafarers.

As so often is the case with piracy, problems and conditions on land are behind the issue.

For a long-term resolution, there is also a need for collaboration with the governments in the area to address the criminals’ bases, sources of finance and corruption as well as criminal justice system support.

 

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Source: World Economic Forum

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