UK P&I Club has issued practical guidance on ship security to address a movement in pirate activity from east to west Africa.
In a statement, UK P&I’s head of loss prevention, Stuart Edmonston, said: “We have seen a sizable shift in pirate activity from Somalia to west Africa and are witnessing an increase in incidents, particularly offshore Nigeria.”
The club has issued seven guidelines on how to avoid incidents with west African pirates:
• The ship should be operating at a heightened state of security throughout, including additional watchkeeping, 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, eg close to pilot station or when carrying out ship-to-ship transfers.
• 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 Best Management Practices Volume 4 (BMP4).
• 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.
• 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.
• 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 or conducting STS operations over a prolonged period, particular care should be taken to limit external communication with third parties.
• 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.
• 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).
Statistics issued by the International Maritime Bureau in July showed a slight increase in incidents in Nigeria, with 11 this year against 10 for the same time last year. The IMB said pirates and robbers in the area “are often well armed, [and] violent”.
Vessels can be hijacked for several days, ransacked, and have their cargo (usually gas oil) stolen.