Pirates are increasing their attacks on the maritime trades off West Africa, according to the latest global piracy report released Monday by International Maritime Bureau of the International Chamber of Commerce.
The IMB received 10 reports from Nigeria in the beginning of 2012, which equaled the total number reported in Nigeria for all of 2011. A further attack in neighboring Benin has also been attributed to Nigerian pirates. The reports include the hijackings of one product and one chemical tanker, between which 42 crewmembers were taken hostage.
The IMB received reports of 102 incidents of piracy and armed robbery for the first quarter of 2012, with dangerously increasing numbers in West African waters.
In total, 11 vessels were reported hijacked worldwide, with 212 crewmembers taken hostage and four seamen killed. A further 45 vessels were boarded, with 32 attempted attacks and 14 vessels fired upon — the latter all attributed to either Somali or Nigerian pirates.
“Nigerian piracy is increasing in incidence and extending in range,” said Pottengal Mukundan, director of the IMB Piracy Reporting Center, which has been monitoring piracy worldwide since 1991. “At least six of the 11 reported incidents in Nigeria occurred at distances greater than 70 nautical miles from the coast, which suggests that fishing vessels are being used as mother ships to attack shipping farther afield.”
Two crewmembers were killed when armed pirates boarded their bulk carrier 110 nautical miles off Lagos, Nigeria. Attacks in Nigerian coastal waters have further resulted in at least three crew kidnapped from their anchored vessel.
“While the number of reported incidents in Nigeria is still fewer 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,” Mukundan said.
Somalia continues to dominate figures with 43 attacks, including the hijacking of nine vessels and the taking hostage of 144 crewmembers. Four dhows and a fishing vessel, softer targets that make for ideal mother ships, were among the hijacked vessels. Somali pirates were also responsible for the hijacking of a Panamax bulk carrier at the end of March.
But while the number of 2012 incidents and hijackings are less than reports for the same period in 2011 (97 incidents, 16 hijackings), the IMB said it is unlikely the threat of Somali piracy will diminish in the short to medium term unless further actions are taken.
The report attributes the reduction in overall attacks to actions and pre-emptive strikes by the navies in the region, which disrupted numerous pirate action groups, emphasizing the importance of the navies in deterring and combating Somali piracy.