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Red Sea Crisis

Concerns over Cape re-routes and West African piracy

Photo: IMO press event with IMO Secretary-General Arsenio Dominguez
Industry concerns have been raised that pirates in West Africa, who have seen shipping trade shifting from the Al-Mandeb strait to around the Cape, could also refocus their operations into the Gulf of Guinea.

Some 60% of commercial vessels previously transiting the Suez Canal, have now re-routed their operations around southern Africa and north along the continent’s west coast to Europe, transiting another regional piracy hotspot, but without military protection.

IMO Secretary General, Arsenio Dominguez, told Seatrade Maritime News: “Industry is now discussing how to prepare for such an event should it happen.”

He would not go into details on what type of preparations were being discussed.

Security risk assessment company Dryad Global’s latest assessment of the Gulf of Guinea region is that there is a low to moderate risk in the region, but the concern is that with billions of dollars of goods sailing past the west African coast pirates will take this opportunity to raid vessels en route to and from Europe.

Speaking at a meet the press event in London, Dominguez addressed the more active Red Sea region, which is seeing regular missile and drone attacks on commercial vessels, with the most recent attack on the 8,500 teu CMA CGM vessel Koi, which Houthi claims suggest was hit by a missile earlier this week.

“We condemn all attacks on commercial shipping,” said Dominguez, who added that his key message to the UN Security Council was that a de-escalation of hostilities was key to protecting crew and trade.

The Secretary General said that the IMO’s focus will remain first and foremost on the “humanitarian crisis faced by seafarers, they are innocent victims in these situations,” referring to pirate attacks as well as Houthi missile attacks on shipping.

Dominguez said he was aware that negotiations for the release of the crew of the Galaxy Leader, boarded by Houthi military and currently held in a Yemeni port, were ongoing, as were negotiations to free the crew of the Ruen, which is being held by Somali pirates off the east African coast.

“Crew on commercial vessels transiting the Red Sea are doing their job, just like you and I, they work on these ships and are at risk from these attacks,” added Dominguez. He emphasised that the safety of the crew and the ship was paramount, and the IMO was focusing on this issue.

“As soon as we find solutions we will come back to normal, just as we did after the financial crisis in 2008 and after Covid, but the repercussions of this will remain until the solutions are found,” said Dominguez.