Gulf of Guinea

Piracy off West Africa now accounts for one fifth of the global total. Compared to the hostage taking off Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, piracy activity in this region is a more complex model characterised by armed robbery, cargo theft and kidnapping depending on the location of the incident.  

Armed robbery is widespread and opportunistic and often violent, placing crews at significant risk of serious harm.  Organised criminal gangs have struck in STS areas; hijacking ships to steal cargo by lightering to smaller ships in their control.  Their brutality towards ships’ crews is also matched with technical expertise relating to ship’s communications and cargo handling systems.  

Where kidnapping has taken place, it is more usually associated with political unrest in the Niger Delta area and often focuses on offshore supply and other oil company craft, though kidnaps of ships’ crews do occur.


Instability and violence in Libya are likely to continue as it struggles to achieve consensus on a new constitution.

There are no real effective security forces under central government control so foreign diplomatic and other assets remain exposed, even in the major cities of Benghazi and Tripoli.  Militias from different interests engage in frequent battles and the main risk of violence to merchant shipping is from collateral damage.  The hot spots of such paramilitary battles are Tripoli, Benghazi, Zawiya, Sebha, Sirte, Kufra and Bani Walid.

Libya is beset by a complex matrix of political, regional and religious interest groups who will shift alliances and enmities at short notice.  Whilst none of those groups have indicated direct hostility to merchant shipping, the methods they deploy are fraught with risk of collateral physical damage, personal injury to crew and detention or trapping of ships

Somalia, Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean

Although the incidence of successful pirate attacks on oceangoing merchant shipping has subsided, the continuing risk remains.  Extensive naval patrols, ‘hardening’ of ships against boarding and the frequent presence of armed guards have prevented successful forays by pirates, but these pirate gangs continue to prowl at often significant distance from their home coastline.  

Regular reports are still received of attempts by pirates to board passing merchant ships.  Shipowners are strongly encouraged to maintain the precautions recommended by BMP4 when transiting the area.

Terrorist activities of Al Shabbab and related organisations have frequently taken place in coastal Kenya such as the area around the port town of Lamu.

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