West Africa High-Risk Area Could Expand

The high-risk area in West Africa should extend to include Togo and the Ivory Coast to better reflect increased security concerns, say shipping and security experts.

The Hull, War, Strikes, Terrorism and Related Perils Listed Areas were last amended by the Lloyd’s Joint War Committee in March last year.

Shipowners must gain their underwriter’s permission before vessels can enter such waters, areas or specified places. Underwriters may amend cover terms before granting permission for vessels to enter the listed area or refuse to grant cover altogether.

To date, the high-risk area is defined as: “Gulf of Guinea, but only the waters of the Beninese and Nigerian Exclusive Economic Zones north of latitude 3° N.”

Lloyd’s Market Association senior executive underwriting Neil Roberts said: “We are watching it, but on the hull war side it has not yet been thought necessary to extend the joint war-listed areas although it will certainly be a topic at the next JWC meeting in March.

“The cargo area is already up to and including Ghana, but cargo insurers don’t have the same additional premium mechanism as hull.”

Intelligence company Bergen Risk Solutions operates in the area and its chief executive Arild Nodland has called for the high-risk area to extend to include Togo and Ivory Coast.

Bergen included Togo in its own list of risk areas last year and plans to include Ivory Coast next month.

In the 12 months to February 1, Bergen had recorded 18 incidents in Togo’s waters and five in those of Ivory Coast. At least two incidents had been recorded in Ghana and in Cameroon.

BIMCO chief maritime security officer Giles Noakes said the shipping organisation was extremely concerned by the rise in violent attacks, armed robbery and hijacking of crews in the Gulf of Guinea.

He said: “Recognising the significantly increased security concerns in the Gulf of Guinea region, the Round Table of International Shipping Associations, BIMCO, the International Chamber of Shipping, Intercargo and Intertanko developed a set of interim guidelines for owners, operators and masters for protection against piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea region at the end of December 2012.”

Mr Noakes said the international community needed to address urgently endemic criminal practices at regional and national levels that affected maritime security, through co-ordinated messaging, national prosecutions and other incentives.

“Anything that highlights the seriousness of events in the region to the international community and the risk to seafarers and ships can only raise the profile of the issue internationally and regionally,” Mr Noakes said.

He said because pirates in the Gulf of Guinea were flexible in their operations, it was difficult to identify a precise area affected by such attacks.

The interim guidelines state that recent incidents suggest the listed area is liable to change.

“For the purpose of this interim guidance, the area off the coasts of Nigeria, Togo or Benin can be regarded as an area in which the counterpiracy management practises should be considered,” it advised shipowners.

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