Ivorian Sailors participate in an anti-piracy hostage rescue scenario with the Ghanaian Navy during Exercise Obangame Express 2017, March 26. Obangame Express 2017, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command, is designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices, and tactical interdiction expertise to enhance the collective capabilities of Gulf of Guinea and West African nations to counter sea-based illicit activity. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Justin Stumberg/Released)
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West Africa’s coast rises as world’s most dangerous piracy zone

The West African coast specially the Gulf of Guinea has become the most dangerous piracy zone. It accounted for more than 90% of global crew member kidnappings last year according to the International Maritime Bureau.

The effect of piracy on crew and their safety continues to be a cause for concern. It also directly impacts maritime activity as well as economic development. The International Journal of Civil Engineering and Technology estimates that the global damage caused by piracy is at $ 6.6 to $ 6.9 billion through commercial fraud, loss of cargo or delay.

According to the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) annual piracy report, there was an alarming increase in crew kidnappings across the Gulf of Guinea in 2019 despite overall piracy incidents declining.

The report detailed that the number of crew kidnapped in the Gulf of Guinea increased by more than 50% from 78 in 2018 to 121 in 2019. This equates to over 90% of global kidnappings reported at sea with 64 crew members kidnapped across six separate incidents in the last quarter of 2019 alone. Overall the region accounted for 64 incidents including all four vessel hijackings that occurred in 2019, as well as 10 out of 11 vessels that reported coming under fire.

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Director of the ICC International Maritime Bureau, Michael Howlett said on the organisation’s website that, “We remain concerned that this region has recorded an unprecedented rise in crew kidnaps. These latest statistics confirm the importance of increased information exchange and coordination between vessels, reporting and response agencies in the Gulf of Guinea Region.”

“Without the necessary reporting structures in place, we will be unable to accurately highlight the high-risk areas for seafarers and address the rise of piracy incidents in these persistently vulnerable waters,” he added.

On the other hand, Somalia reported zero piracy incidents. The report however warns that “Somali pirates continue to possess the capacity to carry out attacks in the Somali basin and wider Indian Ocean.”

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