Practical guidance: combating piracy in West Africa

UK Club’s Loss Prevention department provides practical guidance to Members in relation to piracy in West Africa.

There has been a sizable shift in pirate activity, from Somali to West Africa, and an increase in incidents  particularly offshore Nigeria.

The following are practical tips to Members on how to avoid incidents with West African pirates:

  1. The ship should be operating at a heightened state of security throughout, including additional watch-keeping, roving patrols and fire hoses rigged at the railings; outside doors of the accommodation closed and locked from the inside and temporary barriers erected around the outside stairwells – risk of attack is particularly high when the ship is at anchor or is drifting off a port e.g., close to pilot station or when carrying out Ship-to-Ship (STS) transfer operations.
  2. For the purposes of identifying suitable measures of prevention, mitigation and recovery in case of piracy, it is imperative that a ship and voyage-specific risk assessment is performed well in advance as recommended in Section 3 of the Best Management Practices Volume 4 (BMP4).
  3. Limit the use of lighting at night and reduce the power or turn off the Automatic Identification System (AIS). However, local laws regulating the operation of AIS should be considered and AIS should be reactivated immediately in the event of the ship being attacked.
  4. Review and Comply with Guidelines for Owners, Operators and Masters for Protection against Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea Region, to be read in conjunction with BMP4.
  5. Careful planning is important and procedures outlined in Section 6 of BMP4 should be followed. Where a vessel is on a regular rotation or at anchorage / conducting STS operations over a prolonged period particular care should be taken to limit external communications with third parties.
  6. Regular reporting to The Maritime Trade Information Sharing Centre Gulf of Guinea (MTISC – GoG) while operating within the Voluntary Reporting Area (VRA), which is shown on Admiralty chart Q6114
  7. In the event of any Members considering the use of armed guards, seek the Club’s advice, as this is closely regulated by the West African authorities.  A number of vessels this year have been detained in Nigeria simply for having security consultants on board (whether armed or unarmed).

Members requiring further guidance on this topic should contact the Club’s Loss Prevention department Email: lossprevention.ukclub@thomasmiller.com

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