Safety in the Gulf of Guinea is not negotiable

Speaking on Wednesday at this year’s two-day International Maritime Defence Conference and Exhibition held in Accra on the theme “Maritime Security and Trade: the Nexus between a Secure Maritime Domain and a Developed Blue Economy,” the Vice President, Alhaji Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, referenced International Maritime Bureau (IMB) records that the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) accounted for 95 percent of all kidnappings on sea globally in 2020.

Giving some examples, he said Nigeria recorded 62 incidents of kidnapping, Benin, 29 and Ghana six in 22 separate attacks.

Dr Bawumia also said 79 actual and attempted piracy attacks were carried out in the same year, representing a 34-percent increase over the 59 attacks recorded in 2019 along the coasts of Ghana, Cameroun, Nigeria and Benin.

He said the recent surge in attacks by Pirate Action Groups  in the GoG was a threat to Ghana and the region’s security and economic interest and so must be curtailed immediately.

The call by Dr Bawumia cannot be discounted, considering the negative effects of maritime armed robbery, piracy and kidnappings on crew members, their families and companies, and on countries in the region, and countries from where the affected vessels originate.

The GoG , the African coastal line over 3,700 miles (5920km) long stretching from Guinea to Angola, is one of significance to seafaring and international trade and all the related benefits like employment, state revenue and international relations.

One would ask why the surge in these crime in the Gulf of Guinea.According to the IMB, it tracked unprecedented rise in kidnappings in the GoG, 50 percent over 2018 cases and called for international cooperation to solve the problem.

Obviously that international action did not take place, hence the persistently rising cases in the vulnerable West African region.

The IBM says there are measures to deal with such cases but not all of them work everywhere globally because of the different tactics and strategies the various attackers use.

The Bureau says the furthest crew kidnapping in 2020 occurred was almost 200 nautical miles (NM) or 370km from land with the average kidnapping incident taking place over 60NM or 111kmfrom land.

The IMB explains that the rise in kidnapping incidents further away from shorelines demonstrates the increasing capabilities of pirates in the Gulf of Guinea.

The Ghanaian Times, therefore, can say it is clear that if a whopping 95 percent of kidnappings on sea are happening within a relatively small part of the world like the GoG, then it means measures adopted to deal with piracy, kidnappings and robberies on the sea here are weak.

The IBM says it is worrying that the latest statistics confirm the increased capabilities of pirates in the GoG with more and more attacks taking place further from the coast.

It adds, for instance, thatthe trend can only be resolved through increased information exchange and coordination between vessels and reporting and response agencies in the GoG region.

IMB also advises vessels in the region to remain at least 250 NM from the coast at all times, or until the vessel can transit to commence cargo operations at a berth or safe anchorage.

Definitely, the governments in the GoG and otherstakeholders should secure the required international cooperation to stop the three crimes being perpetrated in the region.

This will forestall the safety of vessels and crew, give families of farers and their companies peace of mind and, above all, create the congenial atmosphere for international trade, especially the maritime aspects.

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