Dryad Maritime Incident Reports: Gulf of Guinea, 22nd August

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The following analysis was issued by Dryad Maritime on Saturday 22nd August. The report illustrates the continuing security issues facing the Gulf of Guinea and the impact upon maritime trade.

Three reports of criminal activity have been confirmed during the last seven days, two occurring in Lagos Port area, Nigeria, and another at Boma Anchorages, DR Congo. Shortly after midnight on 14th August, a cable-laying vessel, MV HD Enterprise, was said to have been attacked outside of Lagos Port. No mention was made of weapons being sighted, nor were the number of criminals involved discussed in the report. It is believed the raid was aborted after the alarm was raised on VHF radio by the crew of the cable layer. The next night a cargo vessel alongside in Apapa Quays, Lagos Port also reported coming under attack. Again, no mention of weapons was made in the report of the incident, only that the embarked security team fired warning shots, which encouraged the gang to abort their raid. During the early hours of 18th August, a bulk carrier was boarded by a single thief in Boma Anchorages on the River Congo. The ship’s crew noticed the man, who subsequently made his escape empty handed when the alarm was raised.

During 2015 there have now been two confirmed incidents against commercial vessels in Lagos Anchorages, with a further five having taken place within the port itself. Dryad Maritime has classified both raids in Lagos as ‘attempted boardings’ as there has been no mention in the reports of either vessel being boarded, or of weapons being sighted. Several boardings by criminal groups of merchant vessels within the vicinity of Lagos are reported each year. As with most incidents of this nature in the region, local petty thieves, whose intention is to loot vessels rather than kidnap crew for ransom, will normally make their escape once noticed by crew or security teams embarked on-board the vessels.

Sporadic overnight attempted boardings by local gangs armed with knives, can be expected to continue in the Lagos area and in other port areas around the Gulf of Guinea. Crews are reminded to comply with gangs’ demands once their vessel has been boarded as failure to do so is likely to escalate the level of violence used by the criminals. Mariners are reminded, that off Lagos criminal gangs have in previous years been armed with rifles as well as knives and have used violence against crew members whilst looting ships. In addition to events that have seen gangs armed with knives, during an incident in 2013 in Lagos Anchorages, a mariner on-board a tanker was shot and killed in a shootout between his ship’s security team and the attackers who were attempting to board the vessel. Outside the of Gulf of Guinea areas, the boarding of a bulk carrier by a would-be thief in Boma Anchorages, is only the second reported incident of its type along the River Congo during 2015.

Recommendations outlined in the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) endorsed ‘Interim Guidelines for Owners, Operators and Masters’ for protection against piracy in the region should be maintained throughout. Employing effective defensive measures, as recommended by the Best Management Practices version 4 (BMP4) booklet, will go a long way to preventing boardings by maritime criminals known to operate in this region.

All ships are requested to report any incident to local authorities including the MTISC in Accra, Ghana Tel: +233 (0)302718227 and to the IMB PRC +60320310010 or +60320310014 imbkl@icc-ccs.org / piracy@icc-ccs.org

The above report is part of Dryad’s Incident & Advisory (I&A) reporting stream – a service aimed at building Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) and providing timely alerts and analysis of maritime threats to enable effective risk mitigation. To learn more about receiving these reports, contact: enquiries@dryadmaritime.com

Editor: Please note, the dates and events referred to in this report are accurate of their publication date, 22nd August.