STOPPING piracy is not difficult militarily but requires more international will, BIMCO head of maritime security Jakob P. Larsen says.

Mr Larsen was speaking following the release of an annual report from the International Maritime Bureau showing attacks in West Africa helped push up piracy numbers in 2018.

According to the IMB, there were 201 incidents in total reported to the bureau last year.

That was a rise from 180 incidents in 2017 and from 191 in 2016.

Of this, 48 incidents occurred in Nigeria, up from 33 in 2017 and 36 incidents in 2016.

The report showed the region saw a considerable spike in violence during the last quarter of the year, with 40 kidnappings in the waters off Nigeria alone.

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In West Africa, there appeared to be an issue with underreporting, estimated at as much as 40%.

Mr Larsen said without a change in approach, the problem was unlikely to be stamped out.

“To be honest, unless we see international naval support and close cooperation between international navies and local law enforcement, I doubt that we will see the numbers go down in any significant way,” he said.

“Significant capacity building is going on in the region and naval forces are being trained, but these initiatives are all aimed at the longer term and do not solve the problem right now. Therefore, we need to step up the effort. Only then can we really turn the tide on piracy in the region.”

Mr Larsen said more capacity building was required with more assets at sea and in the air.

He noted a tendency to believe an anti-piracy operation would be difficult, complicated and risk of firing at the wrong people.

“I don’t agree. I don’t think it is very difficult, nor too risky, and I believe that the challenges are sometimes exaggerated,” Mr Larsen said.

“From a strictly military and law enforcement point of view, this is not a complicated operation, and it has been done before in other parts of the World with success. It may however be complicated from a political point of view. It all comes down to will,” he said.

“If local politicians and the international community are willing to support this, then it can be done relatively easily.”

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