Piracy Soars in West African Waters

The pirate business is booming. There were 27 attacks in Nigerian waters last year, compared to 10 the year before, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

Piracy Soars in West African Waters

Heather Murdock

ABUJA, NIGERIA — The pirate business is booming off the coast of Nigeria.

There were 27 attacks in Nigerian waters last year, compared to 10 the year before, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

Numbers like that make West African waters among the most dangerous in the world, second only to the coast of Somalia, which recorded nearly 70 attacks last year, despite a drastic reduction in piracy.

Dangerous waters

Attacks in West Africa’s waters are very different from those off the coast of Somalia, according to International Maritime Bureau Director Pottengal Mukundan.

In Somalia, people are held hostage for ransom. In West Africa, it’s all about moving product.

“The most serious cases are those in which tankers-product tankers are hijacked in order to steal a part of the cargo,” Mukundan says. “And this operation takes about seven to 10 days, after which the ship and the crew are released. And in order to steal the cargo, they will hijack the ship and take it to a pre-determined location where another, smaller tanker is waiting, and the cargo is transferred from the hijacked tanker to the smaller vessel.”

This is not to say piracy is safe in West Africa, where ships are usually boarded at gunpoint. Two people were killed in attacks last year.

Limited resources

Mukundan believes authorities can stop these kind of attacks without endangering the crew.

“The position of these vessels can be determined without too much difficulty with aerial surveillance, for example,” he says. “And then the navy or the police forces can go in and catch the pirates after the hijacked vessel has been released so there is no risk to the hostages.”

The Nigerian navy has caught a few gangs of pirates but is the only operational policing force in the Gulf of Guinea.

Other coastal states lack the capacity and the equipment to fight pirates in far offshore attacks, according to Mukundan.

The International Maritime Bureau blames the increased piracy on the lack of naval resources in the gulf.

Click to continue reading.

Source: VoA.

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