Pirates attempted to board Maersk ship in the Gulf of Guinea © Amory Ross/Team Alvimedica/Volvo Ocean Race via Getty Images
Pirates attempted to board Maersk ship in the Gulf of Guinea © Amory Ross/Team Alvimedica/Volvo Ocean Race via Getty Images

Maersk calls for military action to tackle piracy

21 January 2021

Shipping giant Maersk has called for military action off the coast of West Africa to combat piracy after raiders attempted to board one of its vessels.

The company said on 13 January 2021 pirates attempted to board the Maersk Cardiff in the Gulf of Guinea while it sailed from Tema, Ghana, to Cameroon.

“We were able to get a guard vessel to the scene who confirmed that no criminals were in the vicinity of Maersk Cardiff,” said Maersk. ”All crew are confirmed safe and accounted for and the vessel is secured and ready to proceed voyage.”

The incident prompted Aslak Ross, head of marine standards at Maersk, to call for a military response.

“The risk has reached a level where effective military capacity needs to be deployed to secure adequate mitigation in the short term, and where local governments and international stakeholders must step up efforts to counter the problem in the longer term,” he said.

Ross said the company was worried about the increased security risk from pirates attacking merchant vessels in the area for kidnap and ransom.

“It is unacceptable in this day and age that seafarers cannot perform their jobs of ensuring a vital supply chain for this region without having to worry about the risk of piracy.”

Ross added that Maersk continuously updated mitigation plans that included “physical hardening measures on our vessels”.

The International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre said the number of attacks on vessels globally rose 20% last year to 195, with the Gulf of Guinea accounting for 95% of hostages.

In 2020 the Gulf of Guinea saw a record 130 crew members kidnapped in 22 separate incidents seeing “an unprecedented rise in the number of multiple crew kidnappings”.

In turn the attacks have led to rising insurance costs for shippers operating off West Africa.

Bertrand Monnet, professor of criminal risk management at France’s EDHEC Business School, said a maximum of 15 pirate bands operated off West Africa, each comprising 20 to 50 members, according to Bloomberg.

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