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Bulker Crew Assaulted and Robbed as UN Calls for More Action on Piracy

West Africa piracy
EOS Risk Group identifies the Nyon as the vessel that was boarded and robbed today (File photo)

Published Jun 22, 2023 12:03 PM by The Maritime Executive

A bulker was boarded and robbed during the most recent incident of piracy in West Africa. Today’s incident, which reportedly left several crew members with minor injuries, came a day after the United Nations Security Council met to review security in the Gulf of Guinea and discuss the steps required to continue the overall decline in piracy reports from the region.

The coordinated British and France monitoring operation Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade Gulf of Guinea (MDAT GoG) issued an advisory this morning June 22 after receiving information on the latest incident. They are reporting the vessel, which has been identified as the Marshall Islands-flagged Nyon by security services, was anchored 16 nautical miles south of Conakry, Guinea. The Nyon is a two-year old bulker managed by Suisse-Atlantique and according to its AIS signal, it arrived in the anchorage on June 14 after a voyage from Algeria.

Security consultants EOS Risk Group identified the vessel and provided additional details on the incident. They are reporting four armed perpetrators boarded the vessel early on June 22. They assaulted some of the crewmembers who suffered minor injuries. The pirates forcibly broke into the ship’s safe and stole the contents including money. The vessel headed to port after the boarders left the ship.

While security overall has been improving for ships operating in West Africa, the United Nations’ session reaffirmed that the incidents have moved both further afield and further offshore. In addition to this incident near Guinea on the western Atlantic coast of Africa, two recent incidents took place further to the south near the Republic of Congo and Gabon.

“Maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea is essential to maintaining a safe and prosperous Atlantic, both for Atlantic nations and those who depend on its waters for their livelihood,” Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Acting Deputy Representative to the United Nations for the United States said on June 21. He reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to assisting while also calling for more international action to follow up on the Security Council’s May 2022 resolution on piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea.

Deputy Political Coordinator of France to the United Nations, Alexandre Olmedo, called for the continuation and reinforcement of the efforts that have contributed to the significant reduction in the number of acts of piracy. During his comments to the Security Council, he told the participants, “Threats are constantly evolving, as recent incidents have reminded us… The international community must support capacity-building in countries of the region, and the efforts of the African Union,” and the other organizations working to create greater stability in the region.

Reporting to the Security Council, Martha Pobee, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Africa in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, highlighted progress noting efforts such as the joint naval task groups and the support of regional navies and entities. A report prepared for the United Nations noted that the deterrence effect was further amplified by the deployment of non-Gulf of Guinea navies.

“To effectively eliminate the threat posed by piracy and armed robbery at sea, national stakeholders, regional and sub-regional organizations, and international partners, must also actively seek to address the underlying social, economic, and environmental challenges that underpin the recruitment of individuals into maritime criminal networks,” she said.

She noted that the issue of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea was raised by several West African officials at the 66th General Assembly. She however pointed to gaps while calling for increased support from member nations. She said there is a lack of appropriate equipment and sustainable financing. She also noted that the nations needed to continue to update their legal framework to support the UN’s efforts with a Code of Conduct for the region.

While kidnapping for ransom piracy peaked in the region in 2020, the UN Security Council highlighted through recent events such as today’s robbery that more still needs to be done to ensure safety in the region.