Marine insurer Gard has reiterated its advice that vessels in the Gulf of Guinea region should to operate with a heightened level of security, following two piracy incidents over three days off the coast of Togo and Benin, both involving crews being taken hostage.
It noted that, according to the International Chamber of Commerce International Maritime Bureau (IMB), in 2019 to date the Gulf of Guinea region had accounted for almost 90% of crew taken hostage and more than 80% of crew kidnappings globally.
IMB has urged seafarers in the Gulf of Guinea region to remain vigilant and report all suspicious activity to regional response centres and the IMB. It said that early detection of an approaching suspicious craft was key to prevent boarding and allowed time to raise the alarm and retreat into a citadel, should that be needed.
Gard advised ship operators and their masters operating in the Gulf of Guinea to:
- Carry out a voyage specific threat and risk assessments prior to entering the region, review the Ship’s Security Plan and adopt relevant preventive measures, following the Global Counter Piracy Guidance for Companies, Masters and Seafarers and the Guidelines for Owners, Operators and Masters for protection against piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea region.
- Brief the crew on the security arrangements identified in the Ship Security Plan and conduct drills prior to arriving in an area of increased risk.
- Report to the MEAT-GOG (tel: +33(0)2 98 22 88 88 / e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org). Gard said that a major lesson learnt from operations against piracy and armed robbery to date was the importance of liaison with the military and law enforcement. Once ships had entered the area of increased risk it was important that they continue to report while transiting within the area.
- Keep a proper, visual lookout. According to the Global Counter Piracy Guidance, this was the most effective method of ship protection. It can help identify a suspicious approach or attack early on, allows defences to be deployed and, can serve as an effective deterrent to would-be attackers.