[By Sopuruchi Onwuka]
Attacks on sea going vessels on the waters of the Gulf of Guinea have surged to project the West African offshore territory as one of the most dangerous routes for sea farers across the globe.
The Oracle Today reports that maritime Gulf of Guinea stretches thousands of kilometres from Angola in the south to Senegal in the north, and its waters are considered among the world’s most dangerous for piracy.
According the annual report for 2020 by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), 130 0f the global 135 sea farers abducted in 2020 were taken off vessels in the West Africa Gulf of Guinea. The number posted new world record in the incident surge involving piracy at any particular location on earth.
The record spate of attacks and hostage taking by pirates offshore West Africa, according to the IMB, pushed up worldwide pirate attacks by 20 percent from 162 incidents in 2019 to 195 in 2020.
Out of 135 sailors abducted globally last year, 130 of them were recorded in the Gulf of Guinea off West Africa — the highest ever number of crew members kidnapped in the region.
IMB director Michael Howlett said the surge in kidnappings showed “the increased capabilities of pirates in the Gulf of Guinea with more and more attacks taking place further from the coast”.
Pirates have shifted from hijacking tankers for oil to the more lucrative kidnapping of sailors for ransom in recent years, added Noel Choong, head of the Kuala Lumpur-based IMB piracy reporting centre.
Choong said the abductions were increasing at an “alarming rate” and appealed to West African countries to step up patrols.
The Gulf of Guinea has now eclipsed the Gulf of Aden, off Somalia, as Africa’s piracy hotspot.
The countries in the region — with the help of the US and France — have been trying for several years to increase collaboration and bolster their means of intervention.
Home to Sub-Saharan Africa’s two main oil producers Nigeria and Angola, piracy there has seriously disrupted international shipping routes and cost the global economy billions of dollars.