Shipping association BIMCO is urging countries in the Gulf of Guinea region to step up the prosecution of suspected pirates following the release of three suspected pirates held on board Danish frigate Esbern Snare.
The Danish frigate has been deployed to the region to join the international fight against piracy since October. The suspected pirates were captured after a shootout with special forces from the frigate on November 24 in waters south of Nigeria. Four other suspects were killed in fight. But the three of the suspected pirates had remained custody on board Esbern Snare while a fourth, who was injured, was transferred to a hospital in Ghana and brought to Denmark for prosecution for attempted manslaughter.
On Friday, it was reported that the three remaining suspects were provided a dinghy with enough food and fuel to reach shore and released.
“They have no relation to Denmark, and the crime they have been charged with was committed far from Denmark. They simply do not belong here, and that’s why I think it’s the right thing to do,” Danish Justice Minister Nick Haekkerup said in a statement in response to their release.
According BIMCO, in Q4 2020, an estimated 23 attacks were carried out against merchant ships in the Gulf of Guinea with 50 seafarers kidnapped, but the number dropped to seven attacks and 20 kidnappings during the same period in 2021, in part thanks to international navies patrolling the areas. But while the number of pirate attacks and kidnapped seafarers in the region has dropped significantly, a number of challenges remain, says BIMCO.
“The presence of international navies is a very important step in the right direction to keep seafarers safe but establishing a sustainable security situation in the Gulf of Guinea cannot happen without full support of the region. Bringing suspected pirates to justice is best done by regional coastal states,” says BIMCO Secretary General and CEO, David Loosley.
“We have seen suspected pirates brought to justice in the region before. International collaboration between regional jurisdictions and non-regional military forces holds a tremendous potential that cannot be missed,” Loosley says.
In July 2021, it was reported that a Togolese court had convicted nine men of piracy following an attack on a tanker in May 2019. One of the pirates was sentenced to 15 years in prison while six were each sentenced to 12 years in prison.
“If regional coastal states help prosecute apprehended pirates it will significantly strengthen the case for capacity-building and support from the international community and underpin the development of the blue economy in West Africa,” says BIMCO’s Head of Maritime Safety and Security, Jakob Larsen.