The Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) has tasked Nigeria and other countries in the Gulf of Guinea region to take responsibility and step up prosecution of suspected pirates apprehended by international navies.

The international shipping association said this was necessary following the release of the three suspected pirates held in custody on board the Danish frigate Esbern Snare.

The Secretary-General and Chief Executive Officer, David Loosley, in a statement, said although the presence of international navies is a very important step to keeping seafarers safe, establishing a sustainable security situation in the Gulf of Guinea could not happen without the full support of the region.

He said bringing suspected pirates to justice would be better achieved by regional coastal states.

“We have seen suspected pirates brought to justice in the region before. An international collaboration between regional jurisdictions and non-regional military forces holds a tremendous potential that cannot be missed,” Loosley said.

The international shipping body recalled that, in July 2021, a Togolese court convicted suspected pirates following an attack on a tanker in May 2019, with one of the pirates being sentenced to 15 years in prison while six others were sentenced to 12 years in prison.

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The shipping body noted that the Danish frigate has since the end of October 2021 been part of an international anti-piracy effort in the Gulf of Guinea to deter pirates.

The body noted that special forces from the frigate were involved in a firefight with gunmen in a skiff full of piracy equipment in the waters south of Nigeria on November 24, as three of the suspected pirates were held in custody on board Esbern Snare while a fourth, who was injured, was transferred to a hospital in Ghana.

The body stated that the three detained suspected pirates have been released, while the fourth was flown to Denmark to face a further constitutional inquiry on January 7, 2022.

Loosley stated that since the arrival of international navies with robust mandates, the number of pirate attacks and kidnapped seafarers in the region has dropped significantly.

He said in Q4 of 2020 an estimated 23 attacks were made against merchant ships trading in the Gulf of Guinea while 50 seafarers were kidnapped, adding that in the same period under review in 2021 the numbers had dropped to seven attacks and 20 kidnappings.

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Loosely said while the Gulf of Guinea coastal states focus increasingly on maritime security, there are, however, still challenges, citing that Nigeria’s Deep Blue is still not deployed on active antipiracy operations.

Also speaking, the Head of Maritime Safety and Security, BIMCO, Jakob Larsen, said if regional coastal states help prosecute apprehended pirates, it will significantly strengthen the case for capacity-building and support from the international community as well as underpin the development of the blue economy in West Africa.