India Restricts Seafarers from Working in Gulf of Guinea

The government of India has issued a restriction banning all Indian seafarers from working on vessels in the Gulf of Guinea.

In a circular sent to ship owners and shipping companies, India’s Directorate General of Shipping in Mumbai informed that the move comes on the back of an increasing rate of piracy and hijacking of crew for ransom in Nigerian waters.

“Piracy and 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,” the statement said.

The attacks were reported up to 170 nautical miles from the coast and many included vessel hijacking, ransacking and theft. Additionally, the latest incidents resulted in crewmembers being injured, kidnapped and in certain occasions taken ashore for ransom.

The total number of incidents in West Africa, as reported to IMO in the 10-year period from January 2009 to December 2018, was 555.

Furthermore, the government said that, based on the two recent incidents, “it has come to the attention of this Directorate that foreign nationals, especially Indian seafarers, are being selectively targeted during such piracy/armed robbery incidents.”

The shipping industry, along with seafarer groups, has recently called for urgent action against the ongoing issue of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

“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,” Dr. Grahaeme Henderson, Chair of the UK Shipping Defence Advisory Committee and Vice President of Shell Shipping & Maritime, told a symposium on Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea.

Concerns raised by the 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.