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The International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) latest piracy report has indicated the Gulf of Guinea, in spite of all efforts to the contrary, is the world most dangerous, where seafarers daily face attackers armed deadly weapons.
The report specifically noted the Gulf of Guinea, off West Africa, as increasingly dangerous for commercial shipping, accounting for just over 90% of maritime kidnappings worldwide, even though ship hijackings are at their lowest since 1993.
“Violence against crews is a growing risk in a workforce already under immense pressure. In the Gulf of Guinea attackers armed with knives and guns now target crews on every type of vessel. Everyone’s vulnerable,” said IMB Director Michael Howlett, in a report which emphasizes that violent attacks against ships and their crews have risen in 2020, with 77 seafarers taken hostage or kidnapped for ransom since January.
In total, IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) recorded 98 incidents of piracy and armed robbery in the first half of 2020, up from 78 in Q2 2019.
The increasing threat of piracy adds to hardships already faced by hundreds of thousands of seafarers working beyond their contractual periods due to COVID-19 restrictions on crew rotations and international travel.
So far this year, 49 crews have been kidnapped for ransom in the Gulf of Guinea and held captive on land for up to six weeks. Rates are accelerating, with 32 crew kidnapped in the past three months alone. And they are happening further out to sea: two-thirds of the vessels were attacked on the high seas from around 20 to 130 nautical miles off the Gulf of Guinea coastline.
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