February 9 - The Baltic and International Maritime Council (Bimco) is urging seafarers to exercise extreme caution when sailing in the Gulf of Guinea, following a spike in piracy activity in the region.

Last week pirates boarded and hijacked a fishing vessel offshore Togo. The Togo Navy responded and engaged the pirates. 20 crew members jumped overboard and were saved by the Navy, but seven crew were taken hostage. The pirates later left the ship, although one crew member was reported killed in the incident.

In a second altercation, as reported by International Maritime Bureau, the Greek-owned tanker Kalamos was attacked while waiting to offload in Nigeria. The vessel's deputy captain was killed in the attack, and three crew members were taken hostage.

Bimco warned that the region continues to be extremely hostile, with pirates targeting product tankers and kidnapping crews.

Bimco also cautions that the Nigerian government would not hesitate to detain any ship entering the country's territorial and coastal waters with security escorts on board - armed or unarmed. The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (Nimasa) recently detained three ships - Lilac Victoria, UACC Eagle and Morgane - because they sailed into Nigeria with individuals linked to private security firms overseas offering training on the use of weapons, claimed Bimco.

Bimco members can access a guide on dealing with Gulf of Guinea piracy here.