Gulf of Guinea - Diplomacy in action

By Neil Roberts, Head of Marine Underwriting, Lloyd’s Market Association and member of the IUMI Policy Forum, IUMI Member Association,

At the recent Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) 103, Nigeria informed International Maritime Organization (IMO) delegates that the Project Deep Blue assets would be deployed soon and those would help with the suppression of piracy. Nonetheless, the IMO deemed it necessary to draft a resolution to encourage progress. Crafting the text was a difficult process with careful attention paid to nuances, for example, whether the purpose was to deter, address or prevent piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

It remains the basic responsibility of littoral states (in this case the focus must be on Nigeria) to ensure safety of life and safe passage in their waters. The Somalian emergency was hampered by the absence of a legal finish for years – Nigerian prosecutions have yet to make any significant impact.

The situation is further complicated in this case by there being two distinct legal issues - piracy in international waters which is dealt with by the law of the sea (UNCLOS - United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and secondly, armed robbery in national waters which falls under the criminal law of individual states.

The initiative is well intentioned of course but IMO have to rely on national implementation. So even after years of problems, the strongest measures are for everyone to consider strengthening law enforcement and/or consider commercial security options. Even with the additional desire to support stronger co-operation, these recommended actions unfortunately leave the possibility that not enough will actually change.