A REPORT by Oceans Beyond Piracy has shown that there have been 32 kidnappings for ransom during 2016 in the Gulf of Guinea, exceeding last year's total of 19 recorded by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) for 2015.
Head of loss prevention at UK P&I Club, Stuart Edmonston, together with Hellenic War Risks and Terra Firma Risk Management, looked at the reasons behind the rise in kidnaps for ransom, London's Tanker Operator reported.
"The Gulf of Guinea is understood to be the most dangerous region in the world for seafarers. The IMB itself has recorded 10 incidents in the Gulf of Guinea in the first quarter of 2016, and the kidnap of 16 seafarers.
Since April 2015, the Merchant Trade Information Sharing Centre for the Gulf of Guinea (MTISC-GoG) recorded 56 incidents in the area and the kidnap of 35 seafarers," the IMB report said.
"The increase in kidnapping for ransom has not occurred out of the blue," Mr Edmonston said, pointing out that in 2014, 16 per cent of attacks in the area involved kidnap for ransom; in 2015 it was 28 per cent of attacks.
"The increase could be due to "improved naval patrolling [by the Nigerian and other littoral navies] and may have made cargo theft more difficult and dangerous," said the report.
Cargo theft of large amounts of refined oil products takes time and so pirates have moved to a crime where less time is spent on board vessels and leaves them less exposed to naval patrols, the report said.
In addition, it may be that for the time being, the drop in oil prices has made oil theft a less lucrative proposition than kidnapping for ransom.
The report also showed that pirates have such belief in their business model that they are increasing their logistical capacity to capture and hold hostages longer than before.
There are also signs that their understanding of the 'kidnap market" is evolving, enabling more sophisticated targeting that yields higher ransoms.
The report warned that the costs of protecting vessels in the region are well known and the threat of kidnap in the Gulf of Guinea is unlikely to disappear or decrease significantly in the next year or so.
"Attacks on vessels and the kidnapping of seafarers in the region may have a further impact on business. Owners and crewing agencies may find it harder to crew ships, especially with nationalities that have the appropriate experience, languages and skill sets.
"Shipping companies need not only to protect their vessels, but also to ensure that they can still attract high-quality officers and crews willing to sail in the area. This means that crews must understand, but not overestimate, the risks and that they and their families are mentally and physically prepared for an incident.
"Companies must also be able to demonstrate that they take their duty of care seriously, and that they will be able to act professionally if a kidnap does occur," said Mr Edmonston.
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