Not security on board ships, but international agreements should ensure that piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is stopped. Dutch Minister of Justice and Security Ferd Grapperhaus and Minister of Defence Ank Bijleveld said this in their response to parliamentary questions about the Merchant Shipping Protection Act.

The Netherlands is part of several international associations and working groups that want to combat piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. It is part of the G7++ FoGG, these are the G7 countries plus amongst others Belgium, Denmark and Switzerland. FoGG stands for Friends of the Gulf of Guinea. The purpose of this group is to make international agreements with coastal states in order to reduce illegal activities in the Gulf of Guinea, one of which is piracy.

The Netherlands is also an active participant in the working group on piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. This working group is part of the Maritime Saftey Committee, which in turn is part of IMO. Last month, it called for more cooperation and action to reduce the large number of pirate attacks in the Gulf.

Also read: Armed private security for Dutch merchant vessels on the horizon

Security on board

In the Gulf of Aden, ships can request security on board provided by the Ministry of Defence. These so-called Vessel Protection Detachments (VPDs) consist of marines who can intervene in case of an attack. Over the past five years, 140 ships have made use of this possibility. From January 2022, ships will be allowed to take private security on board in the Gulf of Aden under the Merchant Shipping Protection Act.

However, VPDs cannot be deployed in the Gulf of Guinea, nor does the new law apply to this area. The Gulf of Aden borders on Somalia, a so-called failed state, and is a transit location. As such it is possible to use either VPDs or private security on board. Yet, the Gulf of Guinea is not a transit location, but a final destination. This means that ships must dock and therefore enter territorial waters. In the waters of countries bordering the Gulf of Guinea, security on board is not permitted as the governments ruling those waters would have to agree to this.

The Gulf of Guinea is plagued by pirate attacks. In 2020, 132 incidents were reported and in 2021, sixteen incidents have been reported so far.

Photo: Piracy attacks around the world, orange markers indicate pirates actually boarded a ship (ICC map).

This article first appeared in Dutch on, a publication of SWZ|Maritime’s publishing partner Promedia.