By Godwin Oritse
EFFORTS of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, to rid Nigeria’s territorial waters of piracy has yielded major results as the International Maritime Bureau, IMB, for the first time in three years, reported a sharp drop in pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, GoG,.
The region which hosts Nigeria’s waters, according to global maritime body’s latest report, recorded 34 incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery in 2021, a sharp drop from 81 in 2020. The figure represented 58 percent drop in the pirates attacks on vessels in the region.
In the annual piracy report IMB attributed the drop in incidents to increased presence of international naval vessels and cooperation between regional authorities. Michael Howlett, Director of IMB, in the report stated: “The IMB commends the robust actions of the international navies and regional authorities in the Gulf of Guinea which appear to have positively contributed to the drop in reported incidents and ensuring continued safety to crews and trade.”
However, the report urges crews and vessels plying these waters to be cautious as the perpetrators remain violent and risk to crews remains high.
“While kidnappings at sea dropped 55 percent in 2021, the Gulf of Guinea continues to account for all kidnapping incidents globally, with 57 crew taken in seven separate incidents,” said the report.
The decline of piracy incidents in the Gulf of Guinea also led to the overall reduction in reported incidents in 2021 globally, said the report, adding in 2021, the IMB piracy reporting center received 132 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships across the world, the lowest recorded level since 1994.
Despite the drop in piracy activities, the global maritime body urges coastal states to acknowledge the inherent risk from piracy and armed robbery and robustly address this crime within the waters of their exclusive economic zone.
Reacting to the latest report on security in the GoG, President of the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners, Captain Tajudeen Alao, said that the presence of the foreign navies on the GoG coupled with the Covid-19 pandemic that ravaged the world may have been responsible for the drop in pirate attacks.
Alao also said that the drop was expected and urged the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA to invest more in intelligence gathering as most of the attacks are planned on shore.
Similarly, President of the Center for Marine Surveyors, Engr Akin Olaniyan, commended the NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy for the Deep Blue initiative, Nigeria’s major maritime security facility.
Olaniyan stated: “I know that there has been a lot of security efforts on the watersways and it is basically deployed by the Navy and NIMASA in tackling this piracy menace.
“The security platforms that have been put in place, now more than ever, have put more action to their words and the planning they have done.
“I am not a big fan of any of them but let truth be told they have done well and we hope they will sustain this because the safety of the waterways, in the sea is to our benefit.”