Two recent attacks in the Gulf of Guinea have highlighted the value of prepared crews and the correct implementation of anti-piracy measures. Last night pirates attacked a laden product tanker while it was en route to Port Harcourt in Nigeria and, on 9 August, a tanker was attacked 200 NM south of Lagos. In both cases, the crew prevented the boarding by effective anti-piracy measures. The most recent incident off Brass, Nigeria, also highlighted the value of good communication. The Master of the vessel issued a timely alert on VHF and GMDSS. This was relayed to MTISC GoG, retransmitted by adjacent vessels and when it reached Dryad, we quickly passed on the information to the IMB PRC, who subsequently contacted authorities and issued an alert. AIS analysis shows that Nigerian naval vessels were operating within 30 nautical miles of the incident and, although not required in the case, could have been on the scene quickly to assist.
However, in a recent post transit report from one of Dryad’s clients, the Master judged that only 25% of vessels were using razor wire and rigging water curtains in the Gulf of Aden. If Masters are foregoing these basic visual and physical deterrents, are they neglecting other BMP4 recommended measures? Dryad has long advised that there is a risk of complacency due to the lack of recent successful attacks and now we have evidence that it has set in, at least in the Indian Ocean.
Numerous commentators have identified the use of BMP4 measures as a key element behind the reduction in Somali piracy, along with armed guards, the presence of regional naval forces and the improvement in conditions in Somalia. The risk of attack is currently not great but as the South West Monsoon abates in the coming weeks, it is possible that more Somali skiffs will attempt to get to sea and conduct attacks. Whilst the industrial level of piracy seen in previous years has declined, the possibility of attack by ‘subsistence’ pirates remains. Complacency on the part of Masters by not following BMP4 and putting in place effective, anti-piracy measures means that these less experienced and supported pirates have a better chance of conducting a successful attack. They only need to be successful once in order to kick start the investment that could see a return to higher levels of piracy off the Somali coast.
The value of properly prepared crews and anti-piracy measures, short of armed guards, has again been shown. BMP4 and ‘Interim Guidelines for Owners, Operators and Masters for protection against piracy in the Gulf of Guinea region’ must remain a cornerstone of a ship’s defence against a successful pirate attack and Masters neglect them at their peril.
Head of Operations, Dryad Maritime
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