Niger Delta MilitThe Federal Government has advised cargo ships, especially those servicing multi-national oil firms, to desist from making provision for ransom when sailing through the Gulf of Guinea where Nigeria is a dominant player.

The advice came on the heels of reported increased activities of pirates off the nation’s coast, with various ransoms being paid to the armed bandits.

According to the Federal Government, payment of ransom onboard ships is one of the factors responsible for the reported armed attacks in recent times.

Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Maritime, Olugbenga Oyeleke, who spoke in an interview with The Guardian, explained that security measures put in place by the Federal Government has curtailed the reported attacks drastically.

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) had recently identified Nigeria as the main source of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea between January and September, this year.

According to the group, with fewer attacks off Somalia, attention has moved to the Gulf of Guinea, “a hotspot for violent piracy and ship hijacking for many years”.

The group in its current report explained that in the first three quarters of this year, the Gulf of Guinea recorded more than 40 piracy attacks, with 132 crew taken hostage and seven vessels hijacked – six tankers and an offshore supply vessel.

The region, according to the group, also accounted for all crew kidnappings worldwide, adding that 32 of them happened off Nigeria, and two off Togo.

Oyeleke who spoke with The Guardian at the weekend also advised oil companies to develop cordial relationship with their respective host communities.

He pointed out taht various security agencies are working round the clock   in collaboration with the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

He said: “There is increased synergy among agencies of government. The Navy, Airforce, NIMASA among others are working closely in this regard. These agencies have also established maritime desk in their various organisations”.

The IMB, in its current report, stated “pirates, often heavily armed and violent, are targeting vessels and their crews along the coast, rivers, anchorages, ports and surrounding waters. In many cases, they ransack the vessels and steal the cargo, usually gas oil”.

However, the group pointed out that the world’s seas within the period drop to its  lowest third-quarter level since 2006, indicating  188 piracy incidents in the first nine months of 2013, down from 233 for the same period last year.

The report added: “Hostage-taking has also fallen markedly, with 266 people taken hostage this year, compared with 458 in the first three quarters of 2012”.

The report also revealed that within the period, pirates hijacked 10 vessels, fired at 17, and boarded 140, adding that a further 21 attacks were thwarted while  266 crew were taken hostage and 34 kidnapped, “One seafarer was killed, twenty were injured, and one is reported missing”.

The report quoted IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan as saying: “Although the number of attacks is down overall, the threat of attacks remains, particularly in the waters off Somalia and in the Gulf of Guinea. It is vital that ship masters continue to be vigilant as they transit these waters.”

 

Information from The Guardian was used in this report.

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