By Mike Schuler, qCaptain
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) will convene a maritime security working group in response to the growing number of pirate attacks on ships in the Gulf of Guinea.
The working group is set to meet at the next session of the Maritime Safety Committee, MSC 103, scheduled to take place in May, to provide an opportunity for Member States and international organizations to discuss further collaboration and possible action to address the problem.
IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim expressed his concern about the escalation in the number and severity of attacks on ships and crew in the Gulf of Guinea region, and insisted on the need for stakeholders to work together to restore security and reduce the threats to the safety and security of crews and vessels operating in the region.
The IMO said urgency of the situation has been underlined by the recent attack on the containership MV Mozart on 23 January 2021, which resulted in a fatality and the kidnapping of 15 seafarers, who have now been released.
In a circular letter (No. 4382, issued 10 February), the Secretary-General said that IMO has been taking action to enhance the coordination of initiatives among stakeholders, including facilitating meetings with representatives of the industry, the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Interregional Coordination Centre for the Implementation of Regional Strategy for Maritime Safety and Security in Central and West Africa (ICC).
The Secretary-General also highlighted that ships need to implement the IMO endorsed Best Management Practices (BMP) for West Africa (WA) to avoid, deter, delay and report attacks.
The number of piracy incidents in the Gulf of Guinea surged to a record in 2020 with 130 crew kidnappings in 22 separate incidents, according to the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre. Also concerning is the fact that attacks are increasingly violent and occurring farther from shore, highlighting the increasing capabilities of armed pirate gangs in the region.
“IMO continues to provide technical assistance to Member States in the region regarding the implementation of maritime security measures,” IMO said in a statement. “The Organization is currently working with the Interregional Coordination Centre (ICC) to assist with the implementation of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct (YCC), a regional code aimed at enhancing maritime security and addressing piracy, armed robbery against ships, illegal fishing and other illicit maritime activity.
“The IMO West and Central Africa Maritime Security Trust Fund enables the Organization’s maritime security capacity-building programme to assist Gulf of Guinea coastal States as well as regional centres under the framework of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct,” the IMO added.