Lack of international action let piracy “breed” in Gulf of Guinea, says Dryad

The international community has acted too slowly in its response to the rapid increase in the level of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, based around kidnapping of crew, according to Dryad Global in its annual report.

CEO Phil Duncan said that where law enforcement was weak and governance was poor, criminals would seek to exploit opportunity. “This is acutely visible in West Africa, where maritime crime poses the greatest threat to commercial shipping operations and the onshore security of any region in the world”, he wrote in his report introduction.

He noted that “understanding and implementing measures to mitigate against these security risks is essential for commercial shipping companies who want to ensure the safety of their crew and protect their profitability. These complex and sometimes hostile trading environments do not always require complex security solutions. Security is like any other specialism, the output can, and should be clear,  understandable and actionable.”

Dryad Global’s Casper Goldman wrote that the West African maritime security situation was “at breaking point”. He said that seafarers’ lives were at risk from ever-increasing violent attacks, with Nigerian pirates operating with increased impunity. “Maritime criminals have honed their business plan; they know the price point of insurers and the value of a crew member’s life. In turn, shipowners have weighed up the cost of improved security measures against insurance premiums and know where their margins lie”, said Goldman.

In the Gulf of Guinea 2020 saw 136 seafarers abducted in 27 incidents. Attacks were becoming increasingly violent, with guns reported as being used in more than 80% of kidnapping incidents last year.

While noting the existence of several regional frameworks in place to battle piracy off the West African coast, Goldman said that it remained vital that implementation of these supranational measures be held to account. “Co-operation between coastal states is especially pertinent considering the increasingly sophisticated and frequent attacks occurring on the high seas, where effectively addressing piracy is beyond the unilateral capacity of most regional states”, he said, noting that “positive rhetoric is still to be met with substantial implementation and progress”.

One example Goldman noted was that the EU had committed to a “Gulf of Guinea action plan” in 2014, ” yet only committed to a pilot case of its ‘Coordinated Maritime Presences’ concepts seven years later, at the beginning of 2021″.

Shannon McSkimming of Dryad Global wrote in the report that “the international community needs to provide the requisite leadership and assistance to the Gulf of Guinea states and to respond with programs of support that pay attention to the onshore crises that underpin piracy as well as the offshore piracy problem”.