Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in West Africa 2016

Main Messages:

  • Kidnap for ransom attacks increased by more than one-third from 2015 to 2016, while the average duration of captivity remained consistent with past years.
  • The number of incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea that OBP recorded in West Africa increased by 76% from 2015 to 2016.
  • Violent attacks were more concentrated in Nigerian waters than in previous years, highlighting that piracy and armed robbery at sea in West Africa is strongly influenced by the domestic security situation in Nigeria.


Total Attacks Piracy
Total Seafarers
Total Cost Piracy

West Africa Overview

Piracy and armed robbery at sea in West Africa 1 markedly increased in 2016. Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) recorded 95 incidents overall, compared with 54 in 2015. That also led to a significant increase in the human cost, with 1,921 seafarers being affected compared with 1,225 in 2015.

One notable development was the increase in kidnap for ransom attacks. OBP recorded 18 incidents during which seafarers were kidnapped from merchant vessels. Several failed attacks were likely attempts to kidnap seafarers as well. All of these attacks could be traced back to groups operating from Nigeria.

Security agencies in the region, particularly in Nigeria, continued to improve their capacities throughout 2016. This was underlined by a quick response to several attacks off Nigeria during which the Nigerian Navy averted potential kidnappings. Furthermore, the response to the hijacking of the product tanker Maximus—including the opposed boarding of the ship by Nigerian Navy personnel—underlined improvements in terms of regional cooperation and response capabilities.

The geographical distribution of kidnap for ransom attacks underlined another trend that OBP has observed for several years. Almost two-thirds of all incidents recorded in 2016 were reported off Nigeria in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and territorial waters, and violent attacks in particular were concentrated almost exclusively in that area.

For most countries in West Africa, limited maritime capacities remain a challenge for law enforcement agencies. The absence of robust legal frameworks, the insufficient effectiveness of domestic justice systems, and other factors inhibit the legal finish of prosecutions related to criminal activities at sea. This is emphasized by the fact that to date, there have been no successful prosecutions for maritime piracy in West Africa.

Mapping of Attacks in West Africa

Total Attacks Piracy


Incidents By Location

OBP aggregated incident reports from media reports, relevant reporting agencies, and other sources to create as comprehensive an outlook as possible. The dataset excludes reports of incidents occurring while vessels were berthed and incidents not requiring the perpetrators to utilize a boat to approach the target vessel.

Fifteen attacks in the riverine environment of the Niger Delta were also recorded by OBP, but these are not included in the overall statistics. The overall number of attacks against local traffic in the region is likely much higher, as explained in more detail below.

Out of 95 total incidents, 55 occurred in international waters, but all fell within the EEZs of states in West Africa. While the nature of incidents within and outside territorial waters may frequently be indistinguishable, the key element is jurisdictional. Incidents which occur outside of territorial waters fall under universal jurisdiction, regardless of whether they happen within a state’s EEZ.

Location of Incidents by Country

West Africa Piracy Incidents by Country


Incident Types


Suspicious Activity

Incidents of suspicious activity include cases where a vessel reports a close encounter or direct approach from another vessel which feels threatening in nature. The perceived threat is determined by the vessel master based upon the actions of the approaching vessel or from the observation of weapons or equipment that can be used to board a vessel. However, the approaching vessel may not have actually taken any overtly hostile action.



Incident Breakdown

Similar to 2015, kidnappings made up the majority of successful incidents in 2016, followed by robberies. Only one incident of hijacking for cargo theft was recorded during the year. All types of vessels came under attack in West Africa, but tankers (product or crude oil) were targeted in almost 40% of all recorded incidents.

Total Incidents by Type

Piracy Kidnapping Incidents 2016


In 2016, OBP recorded 13 cases of robbery and several failed boardings and attacks in West Africa that did not involve a significant degree of violence. In most of the successful boardings, the perpetrators escaped when they were discovered by crew members who then sounded the alarm.

Robberies occur regularly at many anchorage areas in West Africa. Arguably the most telling factor is the heavy local traffic, which often involves small fishing and passenger boats as well as other vessels. It is virtually impossible for domestic law enforcement agencies to provide comprehensive security around anchorages, and the daily patterns of life in the region often include interactions between local traffic and merchant vessels. In the 13 recorded cases of robbery, 287 seafarers were aboard the vessels targeted, none of whom suffered injuries.


The Case of Takoradi

The nature of robberies at anchorage was exemplified in 2016 by activity at the Takoradi anchorage in Ghana. There were five incidents there including three failed attacks, one failed boarding, and one robbery. The robbery and two failed attacks occurred in a cluster within two weeks at the start of September. While the shipping industry should find the level of activity at Takoradi worrisome, the attacks lacked the scale and violence of armed robberies and other incidents in different areas of West Africa, particularly off the coast of Nigeria.



Armed Robbery

In 2016, OBP recorded seven cases of armed robbery and several failed boardings in West Africa with a significant degree of violence. Some of these failed boardings were likely attempts to kidnap crewmembers or to hijack specific vessels; genuine armed robberies are unlikely to occur outside of territorial waters.

This type of attack generally occurs at or close to specific anchorages in the region as well as off the Nigerian coastline. These attacks have to be distinguished from simple robberies since crewmembers are at risk of being injured or even killed. In the seven recorded cases of armed robbery, 142 seafarers were affected.

Three of the seven cases occurred at Conakry anchorage off Guinea; the remaining incidents were recorded off Nigeria. Providing a credible deterrent against these types of attacks is complicated for domestic security agencies since attackers generally spend relatively little time onboard. Continued strengthening of response capacities as well as the provision of comprehensive surveillance of anchorage areas are necessary steps toward countering this specific threat.


The Case of Teal

The heavy-lift vessel Teal was boarded on 3 July while anchored off Conakry. Six men armed with knives and automatic weapons attacked crewmembers and opened fire to threaten the crew, damaging the accommodation block. They subsequently held the crew at gunpoint and robbed them of cash and personal belongings. Local agents contacted the port authority, but the security boat did not arrive until an hour later when the attackers had already left the vessel.



Hijacking for Cargo Theft

Only one successful hijacking operation was recorded by OBP in 2016. The product tanker Maximus was attacked on 11 February off Abidjan and then sailed toward Nigeria.

"International cooperation is the new mantra for maritime security. We cannot go it alone."

Rear Admiral Henry Babalola, Nigerian Navy


No other ships were reported as hijacked, a significant development compared with previous years. Improved response capacities of regional navies as well as improved regional cooperation have led to a significant drop in these types of attacks. Law enforcement on land, particularly in Nigeria, has also been strengthened, making it more complicated to sell stolen oil products on the black market.

In total, the single attack in the category of hijacking for cargo theft affected 18 seafarers.


The Case of Maximus

The product tanker Maximus was hijacked on 11 February off the coast of Côte d’Ivoire by nine armed attackers acting from a tug that had left Lagos several days prior. French authorities had sent out an alert to vessels in the region about a possible attack. The crewmembers were held hostage onboard the vessel for eight days while the pirates changed the name of the vessel to Elvis 5, likely in order to evade authorities.

When Nigerian Navy personnel boarded, they killed one of the attackers and arrested six others. Sixteen crewmembers who remained onboard were freed, but two attackers had already left the vessel and taken two kidnapped crewmembers with them, one Indian and one Pakistani. Both were held for several weeks by a Nigerian criminal gang before they could finally return home.

The response of regional navies underlined the improvements in terms of regional cooperation in recent years. Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Togo sent patrol boats to track the hijacked ship. Nigerian special forces then conducted an opposed boarding to rescue the crew, a capability that few other navies in West Africa currently have.



Kidnap for Ransom

In 2016, OBP recorded 18 cases of kidnap for ransom as well as several failed boardings and attacks that were likely also attempts to kidnap seafarers. All of these attacks took place off Nigeria (territorial waters and EEZ). In total, 369 seafarers were affected by kidnap for ransom attacks, including 96 who were taken hostage.

From kidnap to rescue, victims are held between two and four weeks on average. They are generally held in camps in the Niger Delta along with other hostages, many of whom are Nigerians.

Even though international reporting institutions rarely communicate violence and maritime crime against fishing trawlers, passenger boats, and other local traffic in the riverine environment of the Niger Delta, these attacks are closely linked with attacks against merchant vessels farther offshore.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that criminal groups carrying out attacks against merchant vessels or traffic related to the offshore oil and gas industry are the same as or at least linked to the groups responsible for onshore kidnappings of Nigerians and expatriate workers. Attacks in the riverine environment therefore seem to be inextricably linked to offshore attacks.


The Case of Sampatiki

On 26 March, the tanker Sampatiki was on its way from Port Harcourt to Lagos when it was attacked by nine armed men around midnight. After four hours onboard, the pirates kidnapped five crewmembers. The hostages spent nearly 45 days in captivity on shore. According to the ship’s Third Engineer, Santosh Bhardwaj, the crew kept their morale high by praying and remembering good times with their families. Negotiations were delayed by the complications involved in the pirates having captured seafarers of multiple nationalities. The crew’s release was also hampered by a negotiation breakdown that reportedly occurred when the company attempted to settle for a lower amount than the pirates demanded.




The shipping industry had to address very different challenges in West Africa in 2016. With the exception of Nigeria, the number of attacks against merchant vessels remained relatively constant compared with previous years. Moreover, many of these attacks were non-violent robberies, which may have a psychological impact on seafarers, yet the occurrence of physical violence was very limited.

Nigeria, on the other hand, experienced a spike in attacks, including 18 kidnap for ransom attacks between March and May before the numbers dropped significantly. Analysts suggest that this pattern is closely linked to militant attacks against the oil and gas infrastructure in the Niger Delta. A detailed analysis is beyond the scope of this report, but groups responsible for both types of attacks seem to be similar and their operational focus may shift on short notice due to political circumstances.

Although the number of attacks declined in the second half of the year due to increased patrols and a refocusing of the attacks from sea to inland infrastructure (i.e., oil pipeline attacks), the overall level of piracy and armed robbery at sea remains a concern in West Africa. Moreover, violent incidents involving kidnap for ransom continue to occur, underlined by several incidents in early 2017.

Torture, Injury, and Death

While there are few publicly available reports on the treatment of hostages in the Niger Delta, available evidence suggests that kidnapped seafarers may be beaten, tortured, and even subject to mock executions. Moreover, no medical treatment is available and hostages may have to survive on limited rations. 2 In the 18 kidnap for ransom attacks and 5 incidents of temporary detention offshore recorded by OBP, 144 seafarers (5 Nigerians, 47 foreigners, and 92 crewmembers of unknown nationality) were taken hostage. In the course of these attacks, at least five seafarers sustained physical injuries. One perpetrator was killed by security forces during an attack. Furthermore, 335 seafarers were not taken hostage but were aboard the respective vessels when their fellow crewmembers were kidnapped, which can be traumatic in and of itself.


Riverine Areas of the Niger Delta

Niger Delta Riverine Piracy Attacks

The overall security situation in the riverine environment of the Niger Delta is often overlooked in discussions about piracy in West Africa and particularly off Nigeria. Attacks against local traffic such as passenger boats or trawlers, however, seem to be linked to attacks against merchant vessels further offshore. Anecdotal evidence suggests that locally kidnapped victims, for example, are held in camps in the Niger Delta alongside kidnapped seafarers, while equipment stolen in riverine attacks, such as outboard engines, may be used in offshore attacks.

OBP recorded 15 attacks against local traffic in 2016, but the overall number of incidents is very likely much higher. Boat operators in the coastal city of Oron in Akwa Ibom State alone reportedly lost 22 boats due to attacks between 2013 and 2015. However, very few of these attacks—if any— were reported to local authorities.

Samson Oluwasegun, chairman of the Oron Seamen Boat Owners Union’s Transition Committee, underlined union members’ frustration with the government and security forces: “As a union, we pay our dues to the state and federal government, yet no government has come to our rescue even though we have written several letters to the government on our plight. No compensation is paid to our people or adequate protection, which is the basic and statutory responsibility of a government to the taxpayers provided."  3



Human Cost West Africa

The number of seafarers affected by piracy and armed robbery in 2016 grew considerably, reflecting the increase in total incidents. In total, 1,921 seafarers were aboard vessels subject to piracy and armed robbery incidents in 2016, compared to 1,225 in 2015. Almost all incident types saw an increase in the number of seafarers affected, with the exception of incidents where vessels were used as motherships: no incidents of this nature took place in 2016.

Seafarers Affected by Incident Type

Seafarers Piracy Incidents

Injuries and Deaths

The number of seafarers killed and injured decreased from 2015 to 2016. Zero deaths were recorded in 2016 and seven seafarers sustained injuries from attacks. Approximately 181 seafarers were threatened, an increase from 2015.


Incidents of Seafarers Affected by Violence Type

Violence Type Number of Incidents Number of Seafarers Affected
Kidnapped 18 96
Injury 6 7
Threatened 23 181
Deaths 0 0



Perpetrators were armed in the majority of incidents recorded by OBP; approximately 55%. Guns, including heavy machine guns, were the weapon of choice of perpetrators, used in 30 of the 52 incidents. Approximately 1,113 seafarers were aboard vessels where perpetrators made weapons visible, and 178 were directly threatened. In five incidents involving weapons, seven seafarers sustained injuries, including non-fatal gunshot wounds.

Armed vs Unarmed Incidents

Seafarers Piracy Incidents

Hostages Held Captive

In the 18 kidnap for ransom attacks and five incidents of temporary detention offshore recorded by OBP, 144 seafarers (5 Nigerians, 47 foreigners and 92 crewmembers of unknown nationality) were taken hostage, more than tripling the estimate from 2015. Kidnapping incidents peaked in the first quarter of 2016. In the course of these attacks, at least five seafarers were reported to have sustained physical injuries. At least one perpetrator was killed by security forces during these attacks. Furthermore, 335 seafarers were aboard vessels when their fellow crewmembers were kidnapped. Of the 144 seafarers taken held captive, 48 were temporarily detained, 52 are known to have been released, while the release of the remaining 44 has not been confirmed at the time of writing.


Kidnapping for Ransom Incidents, Including Temporary Detention

Kidnapping For Ransom


Number of Hostages Held (by duration)

Kidnapping hostages One Day Less
Kidnapping hostages One Day More
Kidnapping hostages not realeased

"They beat us, made us stand in the rain at night. They kept threatening us... The only thing they did not do is rape us."

Rohan Ruparelia, MT Maximus hostage 4


Of the seafarers onboard vessels known to be involved in incidents in 2016, the nationalities of 577 of the 809 have been reported to the IMB; the nationalities of the remaining 232 seafarers have not been verified. Most of the seafarers attacked came from five countries: the Philippines, India, Ghana, Nigeria, and Turkey. Of the 577 seafarers whose nationalities are known, 140 were citizens or residents of West African countries.

Note: This graphic represents the 577 of the 809 total seafarers exposed to piracy and armed robbery at sea in 2016 whose nationalities are known. The nationalities of the other 232 are unverified.

Nationality of Seafarers Exposed to Incidents

Nationality of those Exposed to Piracy



Economic Cost West Africa

OBP estimates the total costs related to piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea in 2016 at $793.7 million.


Total Economic Cost of Piracy and Robbery in West Africa

Total Economic Cost of Piracy and Robbery in West Africa


Costs Related to Deterring Piracy

The international community, regional states, and the shipping industry incurred significant costs dedicated to deterring and combating piracy through capacity-building, naval operations, contracted security, and ship protection measures. Those costs are estimated to have totaled $636.1 million in 2016.


Total Costs Related to Deterring Piracy

Type of Deterrence Cost
International Naval Activities $41,000,000
Information Sharing and MSA $2,600,000
Regional Naval Activities $237,800,000
Contracted Maritime Security Services $345,900,000
Ship Protection Measures $3,900,000
Prosecution & Imprisonment $0
Counter-Piracy Organizations $4,900,000
Total $636,100,000


It is not always possible to cleanly separate the provision of maritime security in West Africa into traditional security provision by navies and law enforcement agencies on the one hand and private security companies on the other. There is a broad spectrum of measures related to maritime security, ranging from regional and international naval efforts to public–private partnerships which may provide escort vessels or security force personnel as embarked armed guards.


International Naval Activities

Foreign naval activities in West Africa generally focus on capacity-building and training rather than on other naval activities. France maintains a continuous naval presence through Operation Corymbe, the US und UK navies operate in the region regularly, and others conduct patrols and exercises as well.

In addition to the general presence of navies, various training and capacity-building events are organized each year. Major multinational exercises include NEMO, a quarterly event under the auspices of Operation Corymbe; Obangame Express, an annual exercise led by the US Africa Command; and the African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership, the operational component of the international capacity-building program African Partnership Station. All of these initiatives are aimed at maritime security issues in general but counter-piracy activities are a significant part of the overall aim of the missions. OBP estimates the cost of these counter-piracy activities to be $41.0 million.



Information Sharing and Maritime Situational Awareness

All regional initiatives listed here are not merely counter-piracy initiatives. By and large, their goal is to improve maritime security in the region in support of the Yaoundé framework. Therefore, in reality only a part of the overall budget can be attributed specifically to the fight against piracy and armed robbery at sea in the region.


Cost of Regional and National Information Sharing Centers

Initiative Description Cost Information
Regional Coordination Centre for Maritime Security in Central Africa (CRESMAC) Implemented through the Economic Community of Central African States $403,385 Click for more information
Inter-regional Coordination Centre (ICC) For the implementation of the Regional Strategy for Maritime Safety and Security in Central and West Africa; based in Yaoundé, Cameroon $1,571,700 Click for more information
Regional Maritime Rescue Coordination Centers (RMRCC) RMRCCs are operated in Monrovia and Lagos $330,000 RMRCCs are estimated at two-thirds the annual cost of MTISC, which ceased operations in June of 2016; if the organization had continued operating the 2016 budget would have been roughly $500,00
Marine Domain Awareness for Trade-Gulf of Guinea (MDAT-GOG) Operates out of Brest, France, and Portsmouth, England N/A
Zone D Center Operates in Cotonou, Benin; Maritime Zone includes Togo, Benin, and Nigeria N/A
Zone E Center Operates in Douala, Cameroon; Maritime Zone includes Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and São Tomé and Príncipe N/A
Maritime Trade and Information Sharing Centre (MTISC) Shipping Industry initiative created by the Oil Companies International Marine Forum; located in Tema, Ghana; MTISC ceased operations in June 2016, but if the organization had continued operating the 2016 budget would have been roughly $500,00 $250,000 Approximate costs identified through discussions with various stakeholders
  Total $2,555,085


Regional Naval Activities

Throughout 2016, at least 40 vessels from the Nigerian Navy were actively deployed in the Gulf of GuineaWest Africa. Joined by assets from Ghana, Cameroon, Togo, Côte d'Ivoire, and Benin, these regional actors were tasked with deterring incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea. OBP estimates that six regional naval vessels were on station at any given time, resulting in counter-piracy costs of $19,798,265. The true cost of patrols is likely much higher as some vessels were not included in this figure because of irregular use of the Automatic Identification System (AIS), irregular participation in patrols or the provision of specific incident response services.

In addition to regional navies, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency is responsible for working with the Nigerian Navy to combat piracy and armed robbery at sea. OBP estimates that the amount NIMASA spent on counter piracy related activities during 2016 was $218 million.

AIS Tracking of Nigerian Navy Vessels

Nigerian regional Naval Activities


Contracted Maritime Security Services

In addition to patrols by security agencies, several hybrid models can be found in West Africa, generally in the form of partnerships between private companies and government security forces that are used to improve the capacities of national militaries. Mandates of these partnerships include the conduct of escorts for merchant ships, the operation and/or protection of secure zones (anchorages and areas used for ship-to-ship transfers), and the protection of offshore oil facilities. OBP estimates the total cost of these services in the Gulf of Guinea in 2016 between $338.7 and $353.3 million (avg. $345.9 million).


Escort Vessels

Policy statements from Nigerian security agencies have repeatedly underlined that escort vessels are the only security service permitted in Nigerian territorial waters. In practice, however, this does not appear to be true in all cases.

Several companies operate escort vessels in cooperation with the Nigerian Navy, bolstering naval capacities. In general, the escort vessels are owned and operated by a private company, but part of the crew during operations is provided by the Nigerian Navy. The Nigerian Navy emphasizes that the naval detachment is solely responsible for the handling of weapons and operational command.

Escort vessels can be used for dedicated escorts of merchant vessels to and from ports and terminals in Nigeria, for the protection of convoys between ports and offshore oil and gas installations, or for the provision of security around offshore oil and gas fields. One company also uses patrol boats to provide security for a secure anchorage area off Lagos.

Ship operators can choose to contract escort vessels for transits, replacing armed guards. Publicly available lists of vessels show that at least 11 companies operate at least 80 vessels; some of these are not dedicated patrol boats, but vessels that are usually used for other tasks related to the oil and gas industry in Nigeria. It is likely that more vessels are in operation.

OBP has broken the cost of these vessels to the shipping industry into two categories: costs related to specific patrol boat operations and a more general operating cost for the constant security presence that these vessels provide in specific areas. This second category represents a minimum estimated operating cost, not the total contracted cost to the end user.


Security Escort Costs

Delta Port Escorts Annual Escorts Cost per Escort Annual Cost
Lagos to Warri 44 $37,500 $1,650,000
Warri to Onne 60 $56,000 $3,360,000
Lagos to Onne 116 $64,000 $7,424,000
Estimated Cost for Delta Escorts - - $12,434,000


Security Patrols

The operating cost of 28 privately owned patrol boats that OBP was able to track during 2016 is estimated to be between $102 and $117 million (avg. $110.1 million). These vessels appear to provide an almost constant security presence off Nigeria, often operating around offshore oil and gas installations.

Figures presented here show a minimum of costs for the shipping industry because it is virtually impossible to reliably track the operational patterns of privately owned patrol boats.


Secure Zones

In addition to the security measures already discussed, Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria have each established “secure zones” near major ports. These are clearly demarcated areas where vessels can safely anchor to wait for a berth or conduct ship-to-ship (STS) cargo transfers.

In Nigeria, a private company provides the ships, maintenance, and logistics, and performs all scheduling and billing of clients while the armed forces supply the security personnel and weaponry. In Ghana, the Ports & Harbour Authority is responsible for providing security patrols. In Benin and Togo, the navies are responsible for patrols. OBP estimates that operating these zones cost $8.7 million 2016.

Map of West Africa Secure Zones

Secure Zones West Africa Piracy


Cost of Secure Zones by Country

Country Zone Annual Visits Cost per Visit Annual Cost
Nigeria Secure Anchorage Area 589 $10,500 $6,184,500
Nigeria STS Zone 854 $3,000 $2,562,000
Benin Secure Zones 701 N/A N/A
Togo Secure Zones 4,369 N/A N/A
Ghana STS Zone & Anchorage Area 962 N/A N/A
Total - 7,502 - $8,746,500


Embarked Contracted Maritime Security

Privately contracted armed security teams are prohibited in territorial waters by every state in the Gulf of Guinea. Consequently, the embarked teams responsible for protecting ships while they traverse a nation’s territorial waters should be drawn from law enforcement agencies and government security forces. This model allows commercial vessels to maintain a heightened level of security while simultaneously allowing coastal states to retain their monopoly on the use of force. However, only a limited number of private companies are authorized to contract such teams. Additionally, ship operators may choose to hire unarmed advisors to serve as liaisons between crewmembers and military teams. In total, OBP estimates that hiring these security teams and liaisons cost $214.7 million in 2016.


Ship Protection Measures

Active security measures such as embarked contracted security teams and use of patrol vessels are only available within territorial waters or in designated areas, and are intended to supplement other vessel protection measures. These Ship Protection Measures (SPMs) are laid out in the “Guidelines for Owners, Operators, and Masters for Protection against Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea Region.” 5 The Guidelines suggest that vessels utilize the Maritime Trade Information Sharing Center-GoG (MTISC-GOG), 6 implement SPMs such as enhanced watch-keeping and vessel hardening, and limit the use of AIS and lighting at night. Each vessel operator is responsible for conducting a vessel-specific risk assessment to determine the appropriate SPMs.

As with previous reports, OBP has compiled a list of some of the more frequently recommended and used SPMs to show the estimated average acquisition and implementation cost per vessel. Since piracy and armed robbery at sea have been recognized threats in West Africa for many years, OBP presumes that most ship owners who intend to do so have fitted their vessels with hardening measures already. As such, expenditures are primarily limited to refitting worn or damaged kit and equipping vessels new to the region. OBP estimates the cost of SPMs to be about $3.9 million.


Cost of Ship Protection Measures

Cost of Ship Protection Measures


Prosecution & Imprisonment

While the Nigerian senate has proposed setting up a special court dedicated to piracy cases, OBP is not aware of any formal prosecutions that occurred in 2016. However, OBP estimates that seven individuals were arrested for engaging in piracy and armed robbery activities. Six of the seven are accused of attacking Maximus in February, while another individual was arrested for robbing an anchored tanker, Ngol Cunene, on 13 June 2016 at the Luanda anchorage. 7


Counter-Piracy Organizations

In recent years, the international community has also developed a number of initiatives to support regional efforts to combat maritime crime. OBP estimates the total cost of counter-piracy organizations at $4.9 million.


Cost of Counter-Piracy Organizations

Contributor Cost
EU Maritime Transport Support $1,843,249.28
Critical Maritime Routes in the Gulf of Guinea Programme (CRIMGO) $1,658,925.02
EU Gulf of Guinea Inter-Regional Network (GoGIN) $110,595.00
OBP West Africa $153,698.00
Germany's contribution to information sharing systems $1,105,950.01
Total $4,872,417.31


Value of Stolen Goods

In the Gulf of Guinea, robberies occur fairly often. The value of stolen goods is rarely reported in these instances, but the specific goods that were taken are often listed (e.g., cash, computers, electronic devices). In total, OBP estimates that the value of stolen goods taken in 2016 was between approximately $335,312 and $931,248 (Avg. $600,000).

Ship stores and equipment were taken from vessels on 24 occasions, leading to roughly $180,000 to $630,000 in losses. Crew belongings, on the other hand, were taken on 16 different occasions, resulting in between $155,312 and $301,248 in losses.


Cost of Stolen Goods

Item Stolen Cost Estimate (Low) Cost Estimate (High)
Ship Stores and Personal Belongings $180,000 $630,000
Crew Belongings $155,312 $301,248
  Total Cost Estimate (Low): $335,312 Total Cost Estimate (High): $931,248



Seafarers transiting the Gulf of Guinea incur an increased personal risk due to the threat of piracy and armed robbery. As a result, several collective bargaining agreements developed through the International Bargaining Forum (IBF), International Transport Workers’ Federation, and various national seafarers’ unions have identified areas within which seafarers are entitled to additional pay.

They are also entitled to the right to refuse passage without penalty. According to OBP, seafarers transiting the Gulf of Guinea IBF High Risk Area in 2016 were entitled to $114 million in additional pay.

In the event that they are kidnapped and held hostage, seafarers are entitled to captivity pay. This pay is estimated using the Maritime Labour Convention’s minimum wage of $23 per day held captive. In 2016, the 144 seafarers affected by kidnapping in the Gulf of Guinea were held for an average of between two and four weeks, and were entitled to $57,000 in captivity pay as a result. However, it is impossible to track whether the amounts seafarers were entitled to have actually been paid.



Using the reported additional premiums paid in 2015 by members of the Hellenic War Risks Club, the total cost of War Risk Added Premiums (WRAPS) for transiting the Gulf of Guinea Listed Area in 2016 can be estimated. Assuming that the Gulf of Guinea accounted for 15% of all WRAPs in 2016, and that the change in net premiums was −5%, the total cost of additional premiums incurred by vessels transiting the Gulf of Guinea Listed Area in 2016 was approximately $21 million.

In addition to war risk insurance premiums, a number of vessel operators take out kidnap and ransom (K&R) insurance as additional protection for their vessel’s crew. Using information from maritime insurance experts to gauge the rate of use and cost per transit, the total cost was determined and compared to an assessment of the global K&R market as a check for accuracy.

OBP estimates that in 2016, approximately 35% of all vessels transiting the Gulf of Guinea Listed Area bought K&R insurance at an average cost of $2,400 per transit, totaling $21 million. An alternative method of estimating the Gulf of Guinea K&R insurance cost is to assume that it makes up between 6% and 8% of the global market. The value of the global K&R market is estimated to be between $250 and $300 million in net premiums. This indicates that the shipping industry in the Gulf of Guinea paid between $15 and $23.8 million in K&R insurance premiums. The OBP estimate of $21 million is within this spectrum.

The threat of piracy may lead to increased cargo insurance premiums. Cargo insurance is not paid by the shipping company, but rather by the owners of the cargo. There is significant variation across the types of policies and what they cover, and the premium varies based on a number of factors. Thus, a comprehensive estimate of the piracy-related costs is impossible. However, it can be determined whether the costs associated with this type of insurance were higher or lower than in the previous year based on the risk score assigned to the region by the Joint Cargo Committee (JCC) in their Cargo Watchlist. In 2016, the risk score for the Gulf of Guinea remained classified as “high,” due to theft of oil from a berthed tanker at Apapa, Nigeria, and sustained targeting of tankers at berth in Nigerian ports. At the state level, risk scores varied. Nigeria’s risk score rose slightly, but remained “very high” due to targeted sabotage attacks on oil and gas infrastructure in the Niger Delta. On the other hand, Guinea’s risk score continued as “elevated” thanks to a reduction in piracy and other incidents. Overall, the JCC Cargo Watchlist risk scores for the Gulf of Guinea and littoral states remained in the same range as last year, indicating no major change in the cost of insurance. 8