Gulf of Guinea, of which Nigeria is major part, accounted for nearly half of all reported piracy incidents in the region in the first three months of 2021, latest figures from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), have indicated.
According to the IMB's latest global piracy report, 38 incidents were recorded since the start of 2021 - compared with 47 incidents during the same period last year.
The Gulf of Guinea is found within the West and Central African coastlines, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and aside Nigeria, comprises shores of other countries, including Ghana, Togo, Benin, Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo and Angola.
"In the first three months of 2021, the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) reported 33 vessels boarded, two attempted attacks, two vessels fired upon, and one vessel hijacked," the report noted.
It stated that despite a drop in the number of reported piracy incidents for Q1 2021, violence against crew was on the rise in comparison to previous years.
"Since the start of 2021, 40 crew have been kidnapped compared to 22 crew in Q1 2020. A crew member was also killed in Q1 2021," the IMB document stated.
The report stated that the gulf remains particularly dangerous for seafarers with 43 per cent of all reported piracy incidents occurring in the region, adding that the region accounted for all 40 kidnapped crew incidents, as well as the sole crew fatality, according to IMB.
"Pirates operating within the Gulf of Guinea are well-equipped to attack further away from shorelines and are unafraid to take violent action against innocent crews.
"It's critical that seafarers remain cautious and vigilant when travelling in nearby waters and report all incidents to the regional authorities and the IMB PRC.
"Only improved knowledge sharing channels and increased collaboration between maritime response authorities will reduce the risk to seafarers in the region," IMB Director, Michael Howlett, stressed.
The furthest recorded kidnapping, according to the document, occurred on March 11, 2021, when pirates kidnapped 15 crew from a Maltese flagged Chemical Tanker, 212nm south of Cotonou, Benin.
It noted that in another incident, a fishing vessel hijacked on February 8, 2021, was used by pirates as a mother vessel to facilitate other attacks.
However, the IMB commended the coastal response agencies and independent international navies tasked in the region for actively responding to reported incidents and encouraged their continued efforts in making the waters safer for the seafarers.
The quarterly report on maritime piracy showed that there was an overall decline in incidents in the first quarter of 2021.
"While the number of reported piracy attacks against commercial shipping declined in 2021, violence against crew is on the rise with the Gulf of Guinea remaining the world's piracy hotspot in 2021.
"Seafarers are in many respects the unsung heroes of our global economy," said ICC Secretary General, John Denton.
"Governments, businesses, and maritime response agencies must take appropriate measures to protect the lives and livelihoods of crew, so that we can ensure the uninterrupted free flow of goods throughout international supply chains," he added.
According to the report, the Singapore Straits and the Callao Anchorage, Peru also remain active spots for piracy, adding that while other geographies of the world remained dangerous, the number of incidents remained low and mostly stable versus last year.
"The major part of the incidents however remains boarding with 33 reported in 2021 and two more attempted. Two vessels also reported being fired upon and one was hijacked.
"The number of piracy assaults was nearly evenly split between 20 on vessels that were underway and 16 that were at anchor. Berthed vessels are far less likely to be targeted," it stressed.