The Nigerian Navy has said it will continue to maintain a maritime security presence in the Gulf of Guinea region following two separate incidents within the past 30 days, despite the International Maritine Bureau’s (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) recorded the lowest levels of global piracy and armed robbery for 30 years.  

In the first incident, recorded on 25 March around 135nm west-south-west of Pointe Noire, Republic of Congo, more than ten armed pirates attacked and boarded a tanker underway, named by the Nigerian Navy as the MT Monjasa Reformer. The IMB’s PRC said that on being notified of the incident, it immediately informed regional authorities in the Gulf of Guinea region, as well as French authorities, and requested assistance.

Subsequently, contact with the vessel was lost as the pirates destroyed the navigational and communication equipment, with the IMB broadcasting a missing tanker message to all ships at sea.

On 30 March, a French naval asset intercepted the tanker off Bonny, Nigeria, where it was revealed that six of the crew had been kidnapped. The tanker was escorted to a safe port by the French warship, and the Nigerian Navy vessels NSS Kono and NSS Gongola.

The second incident involved the hijack of the vessel MT Success-9 about 306nm southwest of Abidjan Fairway Buoy, Cote d’Ivoire, on 10 April.

In response to the spike in attacks, the Nigerian Navy stated on 15 April the service would sustain its presence in the Gulf of Guinea region as well as directing its “operational bases” to “enhance efforts to dominate their area of operations”.

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Lowest levels of maritime piracy since 1993

The IMB has recorded the lowest level of reported global piracy and armed robbery incidents since 1993 but called for continued vigilance and naval response in its first quarter piracy and armed robbery report for 2023, issued on 13 April.

The report reveals 27 incidents were reported in the first quarter of the year, representing a marked decline from 37 incidents for the same period in 2022.

Of the 27 incidents, attackers boarded the victims’ vessels in 24 cases, two vessels reported attempted incidents and one vessel was hijacked. According to the IMB, despite the drop in numbers, the threat of violence remains – six crew were kidnapped, two were taken hostage, two were threatened and one was assaulted over the quarter.

Pirate and armed robbery activity continues to decrease in the Gulf of Guinea, stated the IMB, an area which had become a relative hotbed for this crime in recent history. Just five incidents were reported in Q1 2023 compared to eight in 2022 and 16 in 2021.

Despite these improvements, the IMB PRC called for coastal response agencies and international navies to maintain efforts in the region, citing the 25 March tanker attack.

IMB director Michael Howlett said: “We emphasise the need for continued, robust and coordinated regional and international naval presence to act as a deterrent to prevent and respond to piracy – especially considering nearly 85% of international trade is transported via the sea and it is the seafarers who need to be safeguarded.”