The safety of crew on board vessels and the vessel itself is an important aspect of sea trade. However, there are instances where the lives and welfare of seafarers and the safety of the vessel come under threat, which is as a result of maritime piracy. As such, maritime piracy and maritime security continue to be prevailing issues in the world, especially the Gulf of Guinea (the ''GOG'') being the world's hotspot for this activity. The GOG accounts for 90 percent1 of maritime kidnapping in the world according to the International Maritime Bureau and what's more is that Nigeria seems to be at the centre of these activities.

In this commentary, we will cast a spotlight on the recent foiled attack on the Nave Andromeda by Nigerian stowaways, the Nigerian narrative and the year-old Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Act.


On 25 October 2020, Nave Andromeda (the ''Vessel''), a Liberian flagged crude oil tanker laden with about 500,000 barrels of crude oil owned by Folegandros Shipping Corp. and managed by Navios Tanker Management, came under attack by stowaways from Lagos, Nigeria, where the Vessel departed from. The Vessel which was bound for Southampton, South-East England was held hostage near the coast of the Isle of Wight.

After about a 24hrs standoff, the impasse was finally resolved and the hijackers were arrested. This attack on the Vessel isn't an isolated event as a similar event occurred in 2019 where four stowaways also from Lagos, Nigeria hijacked a container ship - the Grande Tema2 which sailed from Lagos, Nigeria and bound for Tilbury docks in Essex3. They were found not guilty of the attempt to hijack the ship, but were convicted of affray.

The narrative of the Vessel and the Grande Tema is quite a common occurrence as vessels around the GOG are either subject to pirate attack or as in the case of the Vessel, held hostage by the crew who in this case decided to take the Vessel hostage4.


Just like the Vessel, several attacks have been reported in 2020 about actual and attempted attacks or maritime security challenges in the GOG and across other places in the world. In the first quarter of 2020, the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB)5 reported that there were 4 (four) actual attacks in Nigeria (the highest in Africa during that quarter) with the attacked vessels being boarded.

In the same quarter, there were 3 (three) attempted attacks and 4 (four) instances where the vessels were fired upon by the suspected pirates. The status of the vessel during this attack was that on 2 (two) occasions, the vessels had anchored while on 5 (five) occasions, the vessels were steaming and, in these incidents, the weapons of choice for the suspected pirates were guns.


With Nigeria being infamous for maritime insecurity and piracy, it became imperative that a separate legislation which criminalised this offence came into existence. The enactment of the SPOMO came with fanfare and optimism as Nigeria was the first West-African country to enact a separate legislation6 which criminalised piracy. The intention of the new legislation was the prevention and suppression of piracy, armed robbery and any other unlawful act against a ship, aircraft and any other maritime craft.7

So far, a handful of convictions8 have been recorded since the enactment of this Act, and the SPOMO is a far cry from being a silver bullet to checkmate the activities which continue to plague the GOG.


The seven Nigerian stowaways that hijacked the vessel have been bailed but currently remain under detention by the Border Force (the ''Force'') in relation to their immigration status. This is in order to carry out investigations9 into the alleged ship hijack and to ascertain their immigration status. The seven stowaways may also face life imprisonment if found guilty for the offence of ship hijack under the Aviation and Maritime Security Act (the Act).10

The Act states:

A person who unlawfully, by the use of force or by threats of any kind, seizes a ship or exercises control of it, commits the offence of hijacking a ship, whatever his nationality and whether the ship is in the United Kingdom or elsewhere...


The swift response of the Force to rescue the crew on board the Vessel and to prevent any casualty is laudable. Furthermore, the detention and potential outcome of the seven Nigerian stowaways if found guilty goes a long way to show how serious the offence of ship hijack is within UK territorial waters.

The Nigerian government has expressed its seriousness to stem the tide of maritime piracy in the GOG, which is commendable and this is evident with the enactment of the SPOMO. However, it's equally important to ensure that incidents such as the Nave Andromeda and Grande Tema don't recur due to the impact it can potentially have on insurance premiums and vessel confidence on the GOG. Particularly, more should be done to prevent incidents where stowaways of Nigerian extraction are found onboard foreign vessels and threatening the life and safety of crew.


1.,to%20the%20International%20Maritime%20Bureau. accessed 5 November 2020

2. accessed 28 October 2020

3. accessed 28 October 2020

4. Article 101 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is instructive on the definition of piracy.

5. accessed 26 October 2020

6. accessed 5 November 2020

7. Section 1 SPOMO Act

8. accessed 5 November 2020

9. accessed 5 November 2020

10. accessed 5 November 2020

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