Pirates strike off Nigeria


Pirates this week attacked a tanker carrying automotive gas oil (AGO) close to shore off Port Harcourt, Nigeria, in what has been a busy week for pirates in the Gulf of Guinea.

The Nigerian flagged tanker Preyor 1 radioed it was under attack on Wednesday. Nigerian authorities were notified and the Nigerian Navy, in the form of NNS Jubilee, was deployed.

According to Praesidium the tanker was sailed to Ut-Ewa in Ikot Abassi with the assistance of a pilot to avoid grounding and a ransom of $25 000 asked for. It is not clear from the report whether the ransom was paid, the ship released or whether it was boarded by Nigerian Navy marines.

It is believed members of local groups operating in the area were responsible for the incident. The groups are also alleged to have attacked a joint task force houseboat in the same area neat the Opobo River mouth when three Lebanese nationals were kidnapped.  The kidnapping was a few days after the Akwa Ibom Avenger group made statements threatening oil and gas interests in the area.

On Saturday, the Chinese flagged fishing vessel Hailufeng 11 was hijacked with 18 crew members. The Nigerian Navy was alerted and the fast patrol boat NNS Nguru was despatched with a detachment of Special Boat Service (SBS) soldiers aboard.

All crew members were released unharmed and 10 suspected pirates apprehended. The Hailufeng 11 was escorted to Lagos.

Dryad Global said there have been at least five incidents occurring within 100 nautical miles of the southern fringe of the Nigerian exclusive economic zone this year. “Incident analysis shows an increase in reporting in this area across a 3 year period which is contrast with a wider declining trend of overall incidents over the same period.”

The first quarter of 2020 saw an increase in piracy around the world with 47 attacks compared to 38 recorded same period last year, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

The number of crew kidnapped off the Gulf of Guinea climbed 50% to 121 in 2019, up from 78 in 2018, and the Gulf has now become the global piracy hotspot.

According to Verisk Maplecroft, “This trend will continue into 2020 and into 2021, as regional security forces, hampered by security hot spots across the continent, and a lack of adequate equipment continue to be unable to effectively tackle piracy.

“The prospect of international assistance is equally remote as international shipping routes avoid the Gulf of Guinea. Both regional shipping and oil and gas operators should expect further disruptions to supply chains, export routes and increased costs as more ransom payments will be necessary to liberate crews.”

“Driven by their experience fighting in the Delta’s secessionist armed groups and embittered by their lack of access to the oil riches around them, the region will remain an abundant reservoir for budding pirates.

“Although pirates have not noticeably changed their tactics, the regular payments of ransoms have likely emboldened them to seek more attractive targets further out at sea, expanding their net outwards,” Verisk Maplecroft said.