On 21st October, American Shipper carried an article based on the latest report from the International Maritime Bureau. It says that new data from the IMB shows that worldwide there have been 70 actual kidnappings of seafarers and 49 hostage-takings year to date. The West African country of Guinea alone saw 23 hostage-takings, Nigeria a further 12 and the West African country of Togo an additional seven. Cameroon and Nigeria were hot spots for kidnapping, too. The IMB says about 86% of all maritime hostage-taking and 82% of all actual kidnappings happen in or near the Gulf of Guinea. It explains that a document issued by the major global maritime shipping organisations, defines the region as being the waters off the countries of Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria and Cameroon. However, pirate attacks have occurred as far south as Angola and as far west as Sierra Leone, so the area of threat is enormous. Unlike in the Somali piracy era, nations in the region jealously guard their monopoly on the right to use armed force in their jurisdictions and generally do not allow large numbers of openly armed foreigners to enter and hang around in their territory, it says – so that ship-borne foreign armed guards would not be allowed. The article also says that pirates often kidnap and hold crew in some pretty inhospitable terrain – so there are physical as well as jurisdictional barriers to tracking down pirates and robbers who have kidnapped crew. Unlike their Somali counterparts, West African pirates kidnap crew, rather than hijack ships, because local law enforcement agencies would be able to track down and recapture a large ship.
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