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Gulf of Guinea Maritime Risks Misunderstood

By MarEx 2014-05-02 11:51:00

The attack on the SP Brussels by pirates off Nigeria’s coast, which resulted in one merchant seaman being killed, could have been completely avoided maritime security firm GoAGT has said.

The Medaillon Reedererei owned product tanker was attacked off Nigeria, at 19:31 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) on 29th April, as the ship sailed from Port Harcourt to Lagos. It was reported that the crew retreated to the citadel but two merchant seamen were unable to reach it. One of them was found dead during a search of the vessel and the second one was found hiding with minor injuries. Two of the attackers were killed during the exchange of gunfire.

Nick Davis, CEO of GoAGT, said: “This is a recognized high risk area. It is hugely important that shipping companies recognize the risks they are facing when in the Gulf of Guinea. The criminal gangs are well armed and will stop at nothing. Poorly trained, locally employed and under manned armed security teams are no match for the threat they are facing.

“While it is reported that the Brussels had a citadel for the crew to shelter in, this can only be an effective and valid part of the vessels defense if the security team and the crew have trained hard in anti-piracy and citadel drills. This requires a security team that has a thorough knowledge of the ship and has established highly effective communications and co-ordination procedures with the crew. Only this way will they maintain an effective lookout that allows all the crew to react in time and achieve shelter in the citadel."

He added: “In this case it would appear that the locally employed Armed Security Team were unable to secure all crew members in the citadel, and one of the two unfortunate crew members who failed to make sanctuary was subsequently killed by the pirates. This was a very sad outcome and not one that any civilian merchant sailor should have to be subjected to in the normal course of a working day.”

The incident happened just days after the Obangame Express 2014 maritime exercise concluded on 23rd April, which aimed at providing African, European and Atlantic partner naval forces the opportunity to work together, refine tactics, and improve cooperation in order to help Gulf of Guinea nations deter piracy and other maritime threats.

Nick said: "With the end of this exercise it is likely we will see a drawdown in the active presence of the Nigerian Navy, perhaps allowing greater opportunity for maritime crime activity. Even during the exercise there were three incidents of piracy reported. This is certainly not the time for the shipping industry to relax its guard."