A surge in pirate attacks off West Africa has led to mounting concern, and analysts say a gang involved in the lucrative black market for stolen fuel appears to be the main culprit.
The increase in attacks in recent months has been concentrated along the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of the small nation of Benin, which neighbours Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer and where piracy has long been a problem.
The targets appear to be well selected, and the operations are conducted with a thorough ruthlessness aimed at grabbing the cargo and whatever else they can take. Thankfully the raids are over relatively swiftly, as the cargoes are the main target – so it does not appear at this stage as though we will see a largescale move to the kidnap and ransom techniques employed off Somalia and in the Indian Ocean.
This does not make the ordeal any less terrifying for those who suffer at the hands of the gangs, but at least the vessels are released quickly once the thefts have taken place.