Piracy on the agenda

IMO urges action to deter piracy in Gulf of Guinea


Implementation of Best Management Practices on ships as well as good coordination onshore can help deter and resolve attacks on ships.

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has expressed his deep concern about the escalation in the number and severity of attacks on ships and crew in the Gulf of Guinea region. He insisted on the need for all 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 urgency of the situation has been underlined by the attack on the container ship Mozart on 23 January 2021, which resulted in a fatality and the kidnapping of 15 seafarers.

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 BMP cover risk assessment, ship protection measures and reporting. (The BMP can be downloaded here.

IMO intends to convene a maritime security working group focusing on the Gulf of Guinea at the next session of the Maritime Safety Committee, MSC 103, scheduled to take place in May 2021. This will provide an opportunity for Member States and international organizations to discuss further collaboration and possible action to address the existing problems.

IMO continues to provide technical assistance to Member States in the region regarding the implementation of maritime security measures. 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.

Facts about the Gulf of Guinea

  • More than 95% of all kidnappings at sea last year took place in the Gulf of Guinea.
  • A total of 130 kidnappings were recorded*, the highest number the International Maritime Bureau has ever seen in the area.
  • In 2019, 121 kidnappings were registered* in the Gulf of Guinea, while in 2018 there were 78 kidnappings*.
  • In addition, there has been a high number of incidents in which ships have been attacked and pirates may have come on board, but without being able to kidnap the crew.
  • In January MAERSK CARDIFF was attacked south of Nigeria.
  • In December 2019 MAERSK CADIZ was attacked by pirates in almost exactly the same place.
  • In November 2020 TORM ALEXANDRA was attacked.
  • In all three cases, the crews fortunately escaped physically unharmed from the incidents with the help of Nigerian and Italian warships.
  • The Danish Defence Intelligence Service writes in its most recent risk assessment for 2020that the underlying causes of piracy are not expected to change positively in the short to medium term. Nor does it expect Nigeria and the other countries to be able to intervene effectively against the pirates.

Facts provided by Danish Shipping


Circular Letter No.4382 (10 February 2021) Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea

A comprehensive list of recommendations and guidance adopted/approved by the Maritime Safety Committee on the prevention and response to acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships can be found in the “Guidance on piracy” section of IMO’s maritime security webpage at:

This article is shared by courtesy of International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Images provided by Inter-Regional Coordination Center (ICC) Yaoundé, Cameroon. They relate to an attempted attack on 7 February 2021, when the Oil/Chemical tanker M/V SEA PHANTOM was boarded by suspected pirates on the high seas off Sao Tome & Principe.

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