The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is the global regulating maritime organization, consisting of 170 member countries with 37 from the African region.
Piracy has increasingly threatened the maritime transport in Africa, particularly in places like the Gulf of Guinea and the Gulf of Aden.
The International Maritime Bureau indicates that piracy is on a steady decline since 2006 on a global scale. It opined that piracy attacks off the coast of Somali dropped to an all-time low of 10 attacks from January 2013 to September 2013 whereas about 70 attacks was recorded or between the same period of 2012.
This drastic drop in piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden was attributed to increased naval presence in this region and the increase in number of vessels compliance with IMO’s Best Management Practices BMP4) along the High Risk Areas (HRA) and the successful implementation of the Djibouti code of conduct which aims to enhance a regional cooperation, to eradicate, prosecute and punish criminals against ships in the region.
However, the situation is different in the Gulf of Guinea: 40 piracy attacks were recorded between January and September 2013, 132 crew members were held hostage, and 7 vessels hijacked. Pirates in this region are equally heavily armed as their counterparts in the Gulf of Aden.
The major difference between the phenomenons of piracy in both regions (arguably) is that the business module of pirates in the Gulf of Aden is attacking vessels, taking captain and crew members hostage, and then demanding for ransom from the ship company. This is to say, pirates in the Gulf of Aden are strictly after money and careless about the ship, cargo and others.
The situation is, however, different with pirates in the Gulf of Guinea. They prefer to attack vessels, usually oil tankers and scoop fuel, steal money as well as take crew hostage (in the process of stealing the fuel). They are concerned with virtually everything valuable on board the ship, cargo, money etc.
The IMO has over the years worked with west and central Africa, which lead to the creation of Maritime Organization for West and Central Africa (MOWCA). It aims to a establish an integrated coast guard network not only to fight piracy but also to curb illegal fishing and armed robbery on the sea.
The International Maritime Organization has taking series of efforts at curbing the trends of piracy in Africa. In the Gulf of Aden, piracy has been on the decline, however there have been arguments from some quarters that the reduction in pirate activities in the region is largely due to the under reporting of piracy incidents and is not exactly a true reflection of the situation.
With the various programs and training initiated by the International Maritime Organization, if African leaders can give their full cooperation and are fully aware of the consequences of allowing piracy spread like cancer throughout the continent, then there will be a decrease of piracy in the region in the next 10 years.
Eniola Ogundele, MA International Maritime Policy