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Nigeria, shipping industry unveil strategy to curb piracy in Gulf of Guinea

By ADAKU WALTER

Federal Government and a coalition of global shipping stakeholders have launched a new strategy to end piracy, armed robbery, and kidnapping in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG).

The strategy establishes a mechanism to periodically assess the effectiveness of country-piracy initiatives and commitments in the GoG. Targeted at all stakeholders operating in the region, it will identify areas of improvement and reinforcement in order to eliminate piracy.

The plan comprises two mutually supportive sections actions, which could be overseen by the Nigerian Industry Working Group (NIWG) and actions that require engagements with other regional and international partners. The strategic ambition of the coalition is to eliminate piracy in the GoG, secure trade routes, reassure traversing crews and support local communities.

In May, the United Nations (UN) Security Council condemned the GoG, as the world’s piracy hot spot. Despite the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre tracking an overall drop in global piracy during 2021, threat levels in the region remain high.

Piracy activity in the GoG has posed a severe threat to seafarers and local communities for over a decade. In 2020, 40 per cent of piracy attacks, and 95 per cent of crew kidnappings occurred in the region. However, attacks decreased by nearly 60 per cent in 2021, following the establishment of Deep Blue Project, the Nigerian Navy and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA anti-piracy project, and increased international counter-piracy operations in the GoG.

The newly launched strategy was developed by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), BIMCO, Intertanko, Intercargo, Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) and representatives of the Nigerian Navy and NIMASA, which make up the NIWG.

Director-General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, said: “Working collaboratively with state and non-state actors, the maritime industry’s various critical players and stakeholders have highlighted key areas where they can make collective improvements. The strategy is an important step in codifying joint efforts to sustain maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea. It will be an important tool to monitor our progress.”

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Secretary-General of ICS, Guy Platten, commented: “The agreement of this strategy demonstrates the strong relationship between the shipping industry and Nigeria, and their shared commitment to eradicating piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. The strategy is already identifying successes and areas in which further improvement will continue to reduce the capability of pirates to attack innocent seafarers in the region.”

Secretary-General and Chief Executive Officer of BIMCO, David Loosley, said: “The joint counter-piracy strategy is a welcome result of productive dialogue between Nigerian authorities and industry partners. The long-term success of the joint strategy relies on establishment of structures and incentives which will stimulate a sustainable change in the Niger Delta pirates’ behaviour.”

Speaking, Managing Director Intertanko, Katharina Stanzel, said: “The agreement on the Gulf of Guinea Strategy marks a significant point in the fight against piracy and insecurity in this region. Seafarers have borne this burden for too long and this agreed strategy, with its associated KPIs will assist in making their time on ships in the area safer and more secure.”

On his part, Secretary-General Intercargo, Kostas Gkonis, said: “With the new strategy, the shipping industry is beginning a new journey alongside Nigeria, an organised approach to tackling security in the Gulf of Guinea. It is only the first step and the partners must continue to work together to ensure continuous improvement and ensure that the shipping community and the local economy see real change as a result of the strategy”.

According to Managing Director of OCIMF, Karen Davis, there is the need to identify and prioritise the issues, which can help prevent harm to seafarers, is important, adding: “The joint strategy provides clarity to the activities that when tackled collaboratively, will make a difference. A positive effect has already been demonstrated.”

Spokesperson of the Nigerian Navy said: “The Nigerian Navy plays a vital role in ensuring maritime security. Collaborating with national and international stakeholders is most important, and this joint strategy demonstrates the good that can be achieved through working together.”

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