EU and Nigeria Working to Address Issues in the Gulf of Guinea 

efforts to address safety in Gulf of Guinea
Anti-piracy training during exercise Obangame Express 2013 - U.S. Navy photo

Published Feb 1, 2021 4:36 PM by The Maritime Executive

There has been no letup of incidents in the Gulf of Guinea with new reports of assaults on ships in the region, including another boarding last week. With frustrations growing and calls from European ministers and the shipping lines for action, the Nigerian Authorities and the European Union Council are committing to actions in an attempt to bolster security in the region.

These actions come after a new round of attacks including the murder of one seafarer by pirates in the region. The Turkish ambassador met with officials of The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to discuss the assault and kidnapping of 15 seafarers from the Turkish-operated containership Mozart. The vessel was transiting about 95 nautical miles northwest of Sao Tome when she was boarded by four armed assailants on January 23. The crew retreated to the vessel's citadel, but the pirates managed to breach it resulting in the death of one of the crew and the abduction of 15 from the crew.

“I assured him we are doing our best for the safe return of the 15 kidnapped Turkish seamen onboard the Liberian-flagged vessel outside Nigerian waters,” wrote Bashir Jamoh, Director-General/CEO of NIMASA and the President, CIoTA, Nigeria.

This comes as Eagle Bulk issued a brief statement confirming reports that its dry bulk carrier the Rowayton Eagle was boarded about 240 miles southeast of Lagos, Nigeria. “We are very pleased to report that the incident has been resolved and our crew are safe and unharmed, and the vessel is fully operational,” writes Eagle Bulk. The vessel was reported by security consultants Dyad Global to have been drifting as the crew mustered in the citadel. Dryad says that a Ghanaian naval vessel sought to assist, but due to mechanical problems was unable to reach the bulker. A Nigerian Security Escort Vessel escorted the ship into Nigerian waters.

This the seventh offshore incident in 2021 and the third successful boarding according to Dryad’s analysis. “Incidents involving failed approaches showed a significant increase within 2020 with 25 such incidents,” writes Dryad noting there were 10 unsuccessful boarding attempts in 2019. 

Based on the continued incidents and the local governments' inability to stem the assaults, the Nigerian news outlet Thisday is reporting that the European Council has decided to assist by seeking to better coordinate the efforts in the region. The EU reportedly will work to ensure political control and provide strategic guidance to the West and Central African States to address the many challenges to maritime security, including organized crime. The EU also affirmed its commitment to increasing work with the coastal states of the Gulf of Guinea through greater European operational engagement.

While the EU has not confirmed its plans for the region, the Ukrainian government stepped in to obtain the release of eight crew abducted from the bulk carrier Stevia in mid-December. The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, posted a message online reporting the release of the crew, including six Ukrainians. 

"Today, six Ukrainian sailors - members of the crew of the Stevia ship, who were held in pirate captivity in Nigeria for a month and a half, were released. Our citizens are safe, we are waiting for their early return to their homeland," the president wrote. Zelensky thanked the Ukrainian diplomats who negotiated the return of the prisoners.