AkpobolokemiNigeria has been identified by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) as the main source of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea between January and September, this year (2013).

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.

“Nigeria, the main source of piracy in the region, accounted for 29 piracy incidents, including two hijackings, 11 ships boarded, 13 vessels fired upon and three attempted attacks,” said IMB.

Explaining further, the group said, “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.”

IMB said attacks in seas around Somalia continued to fall dramatically, with just 10 incidents attributed to Somali pirates this year, down from 70 in the same nine months of 2012.

The group attributed the development to what it identified as improvement to the actions of naval forces engaged in anti-piracy operations, security teams on board vessels, ships complying with the industry’s best management practices, and the stabilising influence of the Central Government of Somalia.

“The vital role of the navies off the coast of Somalia should not be underestimated. Their presence ensures that pirates do not operate with the impunity they did before,” said Captain Mukundan.

According to the report, co-ordinated patrols by Benin and Nigerian authorities have helped reduce attacks in parts of the Gulf of Guinea.

Elsewhere in the world, one area of rising armed robbery attacks is Indonesia where IMB recorded 68 low-level attacks to vessels, nearly all at anchor, “Robbers boarding the vessels were usually armed with knives or machetes.”

Giving details of the most attacked anchorages in its piracy report, IMB calls for increased patrols, and warns ships to stay alert in these waters.

Efforts by the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to curtail piracy and other criminal activities on Nigerian waterways received a boost recently with the commissioning of three security boats.

Director-General of NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi explained that the three boats form part of ongoing effort to strengthen maritime security in Nigeria.

The three boats, christened NIMASA Amaseikumor, NIMASA Oglakirigha and NIMASA Oweikenighan, are expected to enhance the operations of the Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Air Force and other security agencies.

NIMASA recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Nigerian Air Force (NAF).

According to the MoU, the collaboration is designed to facilitate enforcement action that include but not limited to anti-piracy, anti-smuggling, illegal bunkering and illegal fishing activities.

Besides, the memorandum explained that “Hot pursuit” allowed under International Law and NAF operational guidelines may be carried out.

Chief of Air Staff, Alex Badeh, who signed on behalf of NAF said: “We have the capacity to go into the sea and carry out aerial surveillance. We will work in collaboration with the Navy”.

 

Information from The Guardian was used in this report.

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