By Elisha Bala-Gbogbo (Bloomberg) –The West African coast has overtaken Southeast Asia as the worst area for reported piracy and kidnappings at sea last year, with the number of seafarers seized rising by more than 50%, according to a study.
The area, known as the Gulf of Guinea, also recorded the third-highest number of ship losses — the most yet, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty SE, a unit of Munich-based Allianz SE, said in a report Tuesday. Abductions accounted for 90% of the global total in 2019, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
“Piracy remains an ongoing issue,” said Rahul Khanna, global head of marine risk at Allianz. “We thought we had a handle on it but it has manifested yet again.”
Incidents on West Africa-bound vessels have been rising steadily in recent years, with attacks targeting crew rather than the ship or its cargo. Despite a global decline in piracy last year, there has been no let-up in attacks in the Gulf of Guinea in 2020, especially off Nigeria’s coast.
“Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea emanates almost exclusively from Nigeria,” said Jakob Larsen, the head of maritime safety & security at the Baltic & International Maritime Council in Copenhagen. “The Nigerian pirates use the Niger Delta as the staging point for attacks on shipping across the whole eastern part of the Gulf of Guinea and take hostages, holding them for ransom in camps in the Niger Delta.”
Nigeria’s navy and its maritime agency didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
About 45% of global piracy occurred in the Gulf of Guinea in the first quarter of this year, according to Allianz. There were 47 reported incidents, up from 38 a year ago, mostly targeting container ships and bulk carriers.
A key reason for the increased attacks is the ability of pirates, who are often well-armed and violent, to reach ships and kidnap crews as far as 170 nautical miles (315 kilometers) offshore, Allianz said.
Piracy will likely remain a threat for the foreseeable future amid heightened global political and economic uncertainties, Allianz said.
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