Worldwide there are approximately 3,000 merchant ports and the work of the Harbour Master can vary widely from country to country and from port to port even within the same country.
Members of the shipping community, Flag States and Agencies from the Gulf of Guinea gathered at IMO HQ on 7 June for a day-long symposium on Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea.
This event, co-sponsored by BIMCO, IMCA, ICS, ITF and OCIMF, featured speakers from regional maritime agencies as well as shipping officials, academics and military staff. Here the shipping industry, along with seafarer groups, organized the event to highlight the continuing danger to seafarers operating in the Gulf of Guinea.
In opening the symposium, Dr Grahaeme Henderson, Chair of the UK Shipping Defence Advisory Committee and Vice President of Shell Shipping & Maritime, said: ‘Simply put, the high level of piracy and armed robbery attacks in the Gulf of Guinea is not acceptable. Yet it is happening every day and this is not business as usual. We need to take urgent action now.’
Concerns raised by industry were supported by figures from the International Maritime Bureau showing that the number of attacks in the Gulf of Guinea region had doubled in 2018. There has also been a marked increase towards kidnapping for ransom and armed robbery incidents. Piracy expert Professor Bertrand Monnet, who has interviewed pirate gangs in the Niger Delta, estimated that there were approximately ten groups of pirates that were responsible for the majority of attacks in the area, and they were well organized and motivated.
Dr Dakuku Peterside, the Director General and CEO of the Nigerian Maritime Authority and Safety Agency (NIMASA), in his keynote address to the meeting acknowledged the maritime security risks present in the Gulf of Guinea, but stated that new initiatives underway to improve the joint capacity of Nigerian law enforcement and Navy capabilities could make seafarer kidnappings history within a matter of months. He went on to state that he is keen to improve international cooperation, particularly with the shipping industry.
According to Peterside: ‘We have no option but to work together, but we cannot have imposed solutions. NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy will also be hosting a Global Maritime Security Conference in October to seek tailored short and long term solutions to strengthen regional and international collaborations in the Gulf of Guinea.’
First hand experience
It was reported by ICS that the forum also included an interview guided by Branko Berlan, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) Representative to the IMO, with a seafarer who had been attacked and kidnapped in a recent incident. While the seafarer is still recovering from the shock of the ordeal and did not want to be identified, he stated the attack appeared to be well organized and led from ashore.
The seafarer said: ‘The first indication I had of the attack was a knock on my cabin door and two men holding guns appeared.’ He was subsequently held in a camp on shore along with other members of his crew until his release could be secured.
Speakers at the event emphasized the region was starting to build capacity and joint cooperation to fight maritime crime through the Yaoundé Process, which focuses on joint cooperation across the region for reporting and response. The international community is also sponsoring long-term capacity building and partnerships.
However, the shipping industry, seafarer groups and Flag States are keen to identify actions that can have an immediate impact. On this note delegates were encouraged to hear about recent Spanish Navy action to assist Equatorial Guinea to rescue seafarers from a piracy attack last month (May), as well as the new US programme to embark law enforcement officers on regional vessels.
Jakob Larsen, Head of Security for BIMCO pointed out that regional states needed to play their part as well. He commented: ‘Nigerian piracy mainly affects a small geographical area of around 150 x 150 nautical miles. The problem can be solved easily and quickly, especially if Nigeria partners with international navies. Nigeria holds the key to solving this problem.’
The IMO symposium was held in the lead-up to a series of meetings focusing on seafarer safety and security at the IMO.
Concerns over increased piracy in the Gulf of Guinea have resulted in several member states submitting proposals that could help address the crisis.
According to Russell Pegg, Security Adviser at the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF): ‘We are encouraging all stakeholders to take a pro-active role on this issue and are working with member states to support those proposals that could help mitigate the risks to seafarers.’
Guy Platten, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping concluded by saying: ‘It is unacceptable that seafarers are being exposed to such appalling dangers and we need the authorities to take action now.’
Opened by Agnes Wong Tin-yu, Director of Marine for Hong Kong SAR, today’s Nautical Institute International Conference 2019 gave rise to a lively and stimulating debate on the subject of Shiphandling.
Held at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, the morning session included presentations on the legal consequences of shiphandling incidents, special considerations for handling large tankers, handling ships in heavy weather and how digital technologies support command decisions in shiphandling.
In the afternoon delegates were invited to consider the role of simulator and computer based training in shiphandling and also heard from senior pilots working at the ports of Shanghai and Shenzhen. The closing presentation from Capt Stephen Wong of the Hong Kong Pilots Association focused on changes in shiphandling techniques in Hong Kong harbour.
Addressing delegates, Capt Nick Nash FNI president of The Nautical Institute, said:
”Shiphandling is obviously one of the core skills for any shipmaster. This conference has given us all further insights into this skill and the repercussions if we get it wrong!”
“Training is the key, along with proper mentoring while at sea. The collaboration and integration of Bridge teams, Pilots and VTS, while making full use of new technologies will ensure that shiphandling lies at the heart of safety and best practice in the maritime industry.”
Early in June two warships from the Standing NATO Maritime Group One (SNMG1), Turkish frigate TCG Gokova and from the Royal Navy HMS Westminster successfully completed an important training mission in support of joint warfighting logistics. Our illustration has been kindly provided by
NATO Maritime Command (MARCOM) © www.mc.nato.int/media-centre/news
It was reported from NATO Maritime Command at Northwood, NW London, that the two NATO ships escorted a civilian cargo vessel, mv Gute through high- traffic sea lanes during her transit from Norway to Sczecin, Poland carrying Norwegian military equipment for NATO exercise Noble Jump.
The safety and security of sea-based trade and transportation routes is critical to the prosperity of the Baltic nations and the NATO Alliance.
Escort training, such as that practiced by Gokova and Westminster, enhances interoperability among NATO and commercial shipping and provides reassurance to NATO allies and partners that NATO is capable and ready to maintain freedom of navigation in the Baltic Sea.