ABIOLA Seun |
Maersk is calling on authorities to launch an “effective military capacity” in the Gulf of Guinea to increase safety for vessels and crews following two piracy attacks on Maersk vessels in less than a month.
Maersk, the world’s biggest container shipping line, says security for vessels and crews in the Gulf of Guinea off the western coast of Africa is so poor that it may be life-threatening to sail in the pirate-plagued waters.
“It is unacceptable in this day and age that seafarers cannot perform their jobs of ensuring a vital supply chain for this region without having to worry about the risk of piracy,”
said Aslak Ross, head of marine standards at Copenhagen-based Maersk.
“The risk has reached a level where effective military capacity needs to be deployed.”
Maersk is proposing a strategy in the Gulf of Guinea to curb the rising number of assaults, armed robberies and kidnappings. The strategy offers both a short-term solution and a long-term plan.
“The risk has reached a level where effective military capacity needs to be deployed to secure adequate mitigation in the short term,” says Aslak Ross, head of HSE and Marine Standards at Maersk.
What incidents is Maersk responding to?
Saturday 12th December, container vessel Maersk Cadiz also experienced an attempted pirate boarding which was also averted.
Wednesday 13th January pirates attempted to board container vessel Maersk Cardiff which was on route from Tema, Ghana to Cameroon. By the time a patrol vessel had reached the Maersk Cardiff, the pirates had aborted their hijack attempt.
It’s not just commercial companies that are trying to implement change. Denmark’s Minister of Defence, Trine Bramsen, wants European countries to come together to launch a joint naval mission in the Gulf of Guinea, to ensure the protection of commercial shipping in the region.
But, other European players seem reticent to commit to the initiative.
If national governments focus on their territorial waters (12 nautical miles from their shores) major naval powers could reduce piracy further afield by deploying two or three frigates equipped with helicopters, according to Jakob Larsen, head of maritime security at the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO).
He thinks such backing won’t come to fruition because the sea routes aren’t as strategically important as those off Africa’s east coast.
“There is little international appetite for getting involved in Nigeria’s security problems,” he added.
The number of attacks on vessels globally jumped 20% last year to 195, with 135 crew kidnapped, according to the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre’s latest statistics.
The Gulf of Guinea accounted for 95% of hostages taken in 22 separate instances, and 100% of the hijackings that occurred.
The attacks have pushed up insurance and other costs for shippers operating off West Africa, with some resorting to hiring escort vessels manned by armed navy personnel.