$783m lost in Gulf of Guinea but experts disagree over sea piracy reduction rate

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·NIMASA puts rate at 80% but International Maritime Bureau says it just from 98 to 68 incidents

By Ignatius Chukwu

Over $783m has been lost to piracy attacks in the Gulf of Guinea since the area assumed a notorious status. Now, expert authorities seem to disagree over how much the piracy incidence in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) has dropped. The International Maritime bureau (IMB) which receives all reports of incidents said Nigeria has only recorded a drop from 98 in 2020 to 68 in 2021 so far. Maritime stakeholders see the IMB figure as not very impressive for the efforts of the Nigerian Government.

On the other hand, the Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Bashir Jamoh, says sea piracy has declined by 80 per cent in Nigeria’s territorial waters.

Dr. Jamoh disclosed this in a statement signed by Mr Tunde Olalere, Secretary, Lagos State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) on Thursday. The D-G stated this when the executive members of the NUJ, led by its Chairman, Mr Adeleye Ajayi visited the NIMASA headquarters in Lagos.

According to the DG, $783 million has been lost to piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. “We have recorded a drastic reduction in piracy and this is enough for us to beat our chest that we are ready to return to the category ‘C’ of membership of International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

“However, the year 2021 has witnessed a significant turnaround under my leadership as insecurity on Nigerian waters has reduced by 80 per cent,” he said. Nigeria craves to a grade that would remove punitive insurance rates to vessels coming to Nigeria, which drives cost of import.  

Jamoh said the last time the country had a drop in piracy attack in the nation’s waterways was in 1994, saying that Nigerian waterways was one of the top 10 safest waters in the world.

He noted that this achievement was enough reason to sensitise and inform the international community that the Nigerian waterways were now safer than ever before. He assured that Nigeria must take its rightful position among comity of nations globally.

“We want the cost of Insurance Premium paid by Nigerians as a result of insecurity to be reconsidered as insecurity in the country’s waterways has drastically reduced, “Jamoh said.

Not so rosy – IMB

On the other hand, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), Piracy Reporting Centre, wants more action in the region following recent attack on an offshore vessel along the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) that injured two crew members.

The attacks on the ship and crew members occurred in less than three months after the NIMASA launched its much-touted Deep Blue project. The Deep Blue project, which cost Nigeria a whopping USD195 million (about N80 billion), was described by  NIMASA and the Ministery of Transportation as the answer to piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. Both organizations assured the maritime community that the project would end piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

The project, also called the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari on June 10, 2021.

A statement by the IMB says five persons in a speed boat armed with guns approached, fired upon and boarded the offshore supply ship, which was at anchorage.

“The alarm was raised and crew members secured themselves in the ship, but two crew were injured due to the firing and required hospitalisation,” the report said. The remaining crew was reported safe and local authorities were notified.

The IMB’s latest global piracy report showed 68 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the first six months of 2021, the lowest total since 1994 and down from 98 incidents during the same period in 2020.

However, the Gulf of Guinea continues to be particularly dangerous for seafarers with 32 per cent of all reported incidents taking place in the region.

The region also accounted for all 50 kidnapped crew and the single crew fatality recorded by IMB during the first half of 2021.

“Whilst IMB welcomes reduced piracy and armed robbery activity in the Gulf of Guinea, the risk to seafarers still remains. By reporting all incidents to the Regional Authorities and IMB PRC, seafarers can maintain pressure against pirates”, the statement added.

IMB Director, Michael Howlett, said bringing together maritime response authorities through initiatives like Nigeria’s Deep Blue Project and Gulf of Guinea Maritime Collaboration Forum would continue to strengthen knowledge sharing channels and reduce risk to seafarers in the region.

Observers see the figures and stance of the IMB as indication that Nigeria’s request for downgrading in piracy risk may not be in their reckoning at the moment. It is not clear if attacks outside Nigeria’s waterways are being used against Nigeria for the purpose of rating the GoG.

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