States in the Gulf of Guinea region must shoulder their responsibilities and step up their prosecution efforts when pirates are apprehended by international navies, BIMCO said today.
The statement came following the release of three suspected Nigerian pirates who had been held aboard the Danish frigate Esbern snare drum.
The Danish frigate has been part of an international effort to fight piracy in the Gulf of Guinea to deter pirates since the end of October 2021.
On November 24, the frigate’s special forces were involved in a shootout with gunmen in a skiff filled with pirate material in waters south of Nigeria.
Four suspects, including the three who have just been released, were detained aboard the frigate. After Denmark failed to find a country in the region to take them, the three set sail on Thursday in a small dinghy with enough food and fuel to reach shore safely.
They had been charged under Danish law with attempted manslaughter by gunshot on Danish personnel. They were released after Danish Justice Minister Nick Hækkerup ruled the indictments should be dropped.
“We have no interest in bringing the people in question to Denmark, where they should serve a possible sentence, and where we also risk that they cannot be deported afterwards,” Hækkerup said. “Therefore, I took the decision quite exceptionally to order the prosecution to notify a waiver of three of the four suspected pirates. This means that the three suspected pirates have been freed. They have no connection with Denmark and the crime they are accused of was committed far from Denmark. They just don’t belong here. And that’s why I think it’s the right thing to do.
The fourth suspect detained had been admitted to a hospital in Ghana following injuries sustained during the confrontation with Danish staff. Now he has apparently been flown to Denmark after Ghana refused to keep him and the armed forces determined that for health and safety reasons he could not be released at sea. He was due to appear. today before a Danish court.
BIMCO CALLS ON REGIONAL STATES TO ACT
“The presence of international navies is a very important step in the right direction to ensure the safety of seafarers, but the establishment of a lasting security situation in the Gulf of Guinea cannot be done without the full support of the region” , said BIMCO Secretary General and CEO David Loosley. “Bringing suspected pirates to justice is best done by regional coastal states. We have already seen suspected pirates brought to justice in the region. International collaboration between regional jurisdictions and non-regional military forces holds enormous potential that should not be missed ”,
BIMCO notes that in July 2021, it was reported that a Togolese court had convicted nine men of piracy following an attack on an oil tanker in May 2019. One of the pirates was sentenced to 15 years in prison while six were each sentenced to 12 years in prison
Since the arrival of international navies with strong mandates, the number of attacks by pirates and kidnapped sailors in the region has declined dramatically. In the fourth quarter of 2020, an estimated 23 attacks were carried out against merchant ships trading in the Gulf of Guinea while 50 sailors were kidnapped. By the fourth quarter of 2021, the number had fallen to seven attacks and 20 kidnappings.
The coastal states of the Gulf of Guinea are increasingly focusing on maritime security and several initiatives are underway. However, there are still challenges. For example, Nigeria’s Deep Blue initiative is still not deployed as part of active anti-piracy operations.
“If regional coastal states help prosecute apprehended pirates, it will greatly strengthen the case for capacity building and support from the international community and support the development of the blue economy in West Africa,” said Jakob Larsen, Head of Maritime Safety and Security at BIMCO.