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Gulf of Guinea piracy threat grows

Written by Nick Blenkey

Gulf of GuineaAPRIL 10, 2013 — While the threat posed by Somali piracy may have moderated, pirate activity in the Gulf of Guinea remains a growing problem. In a recent loss prevention bulletin, the UK P&I Club gave the following update from its correspondents in the area.

“In the Gulf of Guinea, we would remind you that the pirates’ zone of action now spreads from the Cameroonian Peninsula up to the Ivory Coast. Incidents of piracy (petroleum cargo theft, hijacking of vessels, kidnapping of crew) have dramatically increased over the last few months in this area. This modus operandi is a very different method to that used by the Somali pirates who demand a ransom for the release of the vessels that they capture.”

The loss prevention bulletin recommends that vessels should maintain a good look out and observe all anti-piracy measures recommended by BIMCO and the International Group of P&I Clubs:

  • Razor fencing on the railings I bulwarks on main deck (port/starboard)
  • All exterior doors to be kept secured/locked;
  • Fire main pressurized with fire hoses ready for immediate use;
  • Double watch (lookouts) on the bridge, using at least two radars (if fitted) to make sure that even small echoes are detected

It also gives the following country/port specific advice:


The Port of Lagos is considered the safest port in Nigeria and usually there should be no problem for vessels trading in and out of Nigeria. The only issue that might be anticipated is that of port congestion which would entail the vessel having to wait on roads. This of course is dependent on the cargo as container vessels and tankers do not have as much problem in this regard as general cargo vessels.

Should there be any waiting time, the Master is advised to stay as far away as possible from the FWB thus minimising any risk of pirate boarding I attack.

Cotonou: Vessels should avoid bunkering offshore Cotonou as pirate attacks have been noted in this area particularly with regards to stationary tankers STS transfers.

There is no risk of theft when vessel is alongside in Cotonou port.


TCI Ghana recommends immediate reporting of any incident to the maritime Authorities through the Shipping Agent.

It is worth noting that piracy attacks in Ghanaian territorial waters are not common and vessels having been attacked off other countries often seek shelter in Ghanaian waters/ports. However, there is still a need to be vigilant even when trading to Ghana.


The government, together with the national army, has agreed to allow armed security guards on board vessels in order to deter and defend against piracy at sea. This service must be paid for and any request should be made 72 hours prior to requirement (see our below comments regarding the use of armed guards on board).


In spite of the recent piracy attack on a tanker off the Ivory Coast, our TCI office in Abidjan has confirmed that any vessel can safely enter Ivorian ports, carry out cargo operations and depart without problem.


The bulletin advises extreme prudence in the choice of these private armed guards/companies.

“Many of them are not accepted/ authorised by local authorities and guards employed in one country may not be acceptable in the waters of another neighboring country. This could result in additional serious problems for the vessel and the master.

“Before employing any guards it is recommended to obtain at least a list of locally authorized security companies from the local agent or, better still, the written authorization of the country(ies) at which the vessel is due to call.


The bulletin recommens club members to read the recently published Interim Guidelines for Owners, Operators and Masters for Protection Against Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea Region developed by BIMCO, the International Chamber of Shipping, Intercargo and Intertanko.

Read the UK P&I Club bulletin HERE

Read the Interim Guidelines HERE

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