Following the increasing rate of piracy and hijacking of the crew for ransom in Nigerian waters, especially in the Gulf of Guinea, Indian Directorate General of Shipping in Mumbai, has issued a restriction on all seafarers who are Indian nationals, banning them from working in vessels in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea.
In a circular sent to all shipping owners, shipping companies and other practitioners which was signed by the Director-General of Shipping in India, Capt Anish Joseph, the state reportedly observed that there was an increasing trend in the number of incidents taking place inside the various coastal states jurisdiction in the GoG.
It also alleged that from two recent incidents, it had become clearer that foreign nationals, especially Indian seafarers, were being selectively targeted during piracy and armed robbery incidents in the GoG.
Apart from Nigeria, the Indian Shipping Directorate also instructed manning agents not to engage any Indian seafarers on coastal vessels trading solely within the ports of GoG including Benin, Ghana, Togo, Cameroon, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
The circular read in part, “For the attention of shipowners, ship managers, shipping agents, RPSL agents, ship masters, seafarers, charterers, shipbuilders, Ship Breakers Association, Classification Societies recognised by Directorate General of Shipping, non-exclusive survey companies, insurance companies, coastal state including administrations of union territories/islands and Maritime Boards.
“Piracy/armed robbery attacks in the Gulf of Guinea are becoming more violent with a greater tendency to attack, hijack and rob vessels as well as kidnap crew, in the waters of Gulf of Guinea.
“These attacks having also been reported up to 170 nautical miles from the coast. In many of these incidents in the Gulf of Guinea, pirates have hijacked the vessel for several days, ransacked the vessel and stolen part cargo (usually gas oil). Additionally, in these past attacks, ships’ crew members have also been injured, kidnapped and in certain occasions taken ashore for ransom.
“As per International Maritime Organisation promulgated reports of attempted attacks by pirates and armed robbers via the Global Integrated Shipping Information System, the sum total of the number of incidents of piracy and armed robbery in West Africa, as reported to IMO in the 10-year period from January 1, 2009, to December 31, 2018, was 555.”
It added, “The number of acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships in West Africa as per GISIS covering the period 1 January to 31 December 2018 was 81 and reflected a comparable increase from 49 incidents reported in 2017. During these 10 years, 2018 also showed the highest in the number of episodes, with three ships reportedly hijacked and 86 crew held hostage in that year.
“Accordingly, all RPSL agents are instructed to not engage any Indian seafarers on coastal vessels trading solely within the ports in Gulf of Guinea (i.e. Benin, Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea). All concerned stakeholders are also advised to take note of the information provided in this advisory and act accordingly.”