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When Piracy is Just Armed Robbery

Op-Ed by Herbert I. Anyiam 
July 21st 2014
Op-Ed by Herbert I. Anyiam
There is a general consensus in the global maritime industry that the rate of unlawful acts against vessels in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) has been on the increase in recent years. However, information on the exact nature of such unlawful acts in the region is distorted and unreliable with confusing statistics – hampering efforts to suppress the menace.

There are confusing definitions of piracy and armed robbery at sea, coupled with weak legal mechanisms for dealing with and prosecuting apprehended offenders. There is also evidence suggesting that most unlawful acts against vessels in the region, irrespective of their nature or location, are erroneously being classified as acts of piracy. There have also been various allegations of low prosecution rate for apprehended offenders.

The Nature of Crimes Against Vessels in GoG from a Legal Perspective

It is vital that the exact nature of the unlawful acts against vessels in that region is established from a legal perspective so as to determine whether any counter measures, including apprehension and prosecution of offenders, should be international or nationalistic in approach or a combination of both. It seems that the confusion over the legal nature of crimes against vessels in GoG is due to the different definitions of piracy adopted by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

The IMB is an agency established by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) with the support of the IMO for the purpose of collecting, exchanging and disseminating information on maritime crimes for the benefit of international commerce. Until 2009 the IMB defined piracy in its annual reports as:

An act of boarding (or attempted boarding) with the intent to commit theft or any other crime and with the intent or capability to use force in furtherance of that act.

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Source: http://www.maritime-executive.com