The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported an attack on June 30 around 120 nautical miles southwest of Nigeria’s Bonny Island where a container ship adrift awaiting berthing instructions was approached by five armed pirates in a wooden speedboat. As the pirates approached, they fired on the vessel, damaging some bridge windows and equipment. The ship raised the alarm, activated the ship security alert system (SSAS), started the main engines and manoeuvred away from the approaching speedboat. Non-essential crew retreated into the citadel until the pirates abandoned the attack.
The IMB reports another attack on the same day in almost the same position (115 nautical miles southwest of Bonny Island). According to the London-based maritime watchdog, six armed pirates chased and fired on an oil tanker underway. The master enforced anti-piracy measures and managed to evade the boarding. The ship was slightly damaged due to gunfire, but all crew were safe.
A third attack was reported on the same day, around 70 nautical miles southwest of Port Harcourt. Armed pirates in a boat chased and fired on a product tanker underway from Bonny River, according to the IMB. The Nigerian armed naval personnel onboard the tanker exchanged fire with the pirates resulting in the pirates aborting the attempted attack after 15 minutes of firing.
Piracy off West Africa has increased significantly this year, with pirates becoming increasingly bold and moving from armed robberies to cargo thefts and hijackings.
“Generally all waters in Nigeria remain risky. Vessels are advised to be vigilant as many attacks may have gone unreported,” the IMB warned.
Attacks in the Gulf of Guinea have increased in recent months as the area, spanning a dozen countries, is a growing source of oil, cocoa and metals being shipped to the world's markets. The IMB said there were ten attacks off Nigeria in the first quarter of this year. A further attack in neighbouring Benin was also attributed to Nigerian gangs.
"Nigerian piracy is increasing in incidence and extending in range," said IMB director Pottengal Mukundan. "While the number of reported incidents in Nigeria is still less than Somalia, and hijacked vessels are under control of the pirates for days rather than months, the level of violence against crew is dangerously high."
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) recorded a total of 83 piracy and sea robbery attacks, including other unlawful acts at sea, in 2011.
The attacks were mostly recorded from the country’s high risk areas of Bonny, Calabar, Port Harcourt, Warri and Lagos pilotage districts. Lagos pilotage district accounted for six of the reported attacks that resulted to varying degrees of injuries to ship crew, loss of lives of seafarers, loss of cash and shipboard equipment, Nigeria’s Business Day reports.
Patrick Akpobolokemi, director general of NIMASA, said that his agency and the Nigerian Navy had established the Maritime Guard Command for regular patrol of Lagos waters, while the Nigerian Marine Police patrol inland waterways. In addition, NIMASA is partnering with the Nigerian Air Force to establish a maritime air unit at Benin to carry out surveillance.
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