13th October 2017

Navy to enforce rules regarding Armed Guards


Following on from the Intertanko release last week after their meeting with Rear Admiral Osondo, Nigerian Navy’s Head of Standards and Transformation, the Navy’s position on the embarkation of Armed Guards has been discussed again in a new update from independent advisory body Risk Intelligence http://www.riskintelligence.eu/news/#news149

This statement aligns with the information we have been passing on to our clients since the SAA has been operational (almost 5 years), and we would like to assure you that all SAA services, in Lagos and throughout Nigeria, continue to be fully compliant with local laws and legislation, provided in full accordance with the terms of the Nigerian Navy MOU.

Risk Intelligence’s full review of the statement goes on to discuss another important angle – efficacy:

Even though embarkation of armed teams is now a moot point, an analysis of attacks in recent
years suggests that the embarkation of armed security in teams of three to four (or even, in some
cases, seven) men with light weapons provides little to no deterrence for those attackers who
pose the greatest threat. Numerous firefights with casualties and boardings, including successful
kidnappings, have demonstrated the disproportionately high risk of using Nigerian security forces
as embarked armed guards

The SAA is still the most effective, compliant solution for waiting offshore Lagos; patrolled 24/7 by Nigerian Navy (NN) patrol boats and with a 100% success rate since inception. We also provide security during STS operations in the designated NPA STS area and escorts to/from berth at Lagos, as well as escorts to and from terminals and berths further along the coast including Bonny, Escravos, Okrika and Qua Iboe. All of our escorts are carried out by Navy patrol boats which meet the strict criteria detailed in the MOU.

For further information on our services or compliance, please contact SAACommercial@saawestafrica.com



7th July 2017

Nigeria still a hotspot despite continued drop in reported piracy

IMB Piracy Report Jan – Jun 2017

Recording some of the lowest figures seen in the last five-year period, the latest piracy report of the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) shows that in the first six-months of 2017, 63 vessels were boarded, 12 fired upon, four were hijacked and attacks were attempted on another eight vessels. A total of 63 crew has been taken hostage so far this year while 41 have been kidnapped from their vessels, three injured and two killed.

Pirates in Nigeria continue to dominate when it comes to reports of kidnappings however. So far this year they have been responsible for the abduction of 31 crew in five reported incidents. The numbers include 14 crew members taken from two separate vessels in the second quarter of the year. Violence against crews continues with half of all reports of vessels being fired upon coming from Nigeria.

Key points from the report on Nigeria specifically:

  • Highest number of kidnappings globally with 31
  • Highest number of violent attacks globally with shots fired at the vessel totally 6 incidents
  • According to IMB community reporting statistics 63% of all incidents go unreported
  • Indiscriminate in targeting vessels with Tankers, Bulkers, Reefers, Offshore O&G and Cargo vessels all being attacked

The European Shipowners Council also stated their ongoing concerns about the threat in the region “The continued problems in the Gulf of Guinea create serious concerns about the security of seafarers sailing in that area,” commented Patrick Verhoeven, ECSA Secretary General. ECSA full article

For more information on security provisions in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea, please contact SAACommercial@saawestafrica.com

11th October 2016

SAA Supporting Local Causes



The Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) team in Nigeria is looking for support from their clients and friends to provide much needed food and essential items for two orphanages based in Lagos.

Nigeria, like many other African countries, has huge numbers of orphaned children who need help.

These two orphanages can only survive with assistance from initiatives such as this one.

Olive Blooms supports 14 children currently, aged 1 – 6 years old www.oliveblooms.org
Arrows of God currently has 74 children, aged from newly-born to 18 years of age. They also continue to support several gifted children through university www.facebook.com/aogorphanage

100% of your donations will be used by the SAA team to purchase food and other essential items. Please note that the orphanages have a priority list of what they require, so should you wish to purchase your own donations, please email becki@saawestafrica.com and we will email the list over.

Support us here

26th July 2016

70% of Global kidnapping in GoG reports IMB despite Worldwide drop in Piracy

The Gulf of Guinea, especially Nigeria, is still a Piracy Kidnapping hotspot, according to the latest report from IMB (International Maritime Bureau).

Around the globe, attacks are down for the first half on 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. However, this is not the case in GoG:

““This drop in world piracy is encouraging news. Two main factors are recent improvements around Indonesia, and the continued deterrence of Somali pirates off East Africa,” said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB, whose global Piracy Reporting Centre has supported the shipping industry, authorities and navies for 25 years. “But ships need to stay vigilant, maintain security and report all attacks, as the threat of piracy remains, particularly off Somalia and in the Gulf of Guinea,” he said.

Nigeria is the world’s piracy kidnapping hotspot Despite global improvements, kidnappings are on the rise, with 44 crew captured for ransom in 2016, 24 of them in Nigeria, up from 10 in the first half of 2015. Many more attacks and attempted attacks still go unreported, the actual figures could be much higher.

“In the Gulf of Guinea, rather than oil tankers being hijacked for their cargo, there is an increasing number of incidents of crew being kidnapped for ransom,” said Captain Mukundan.

It is also reported that the Gulf of Guinea accounted for seven of the world’s ten kidnapping incidents, with armed gangs boarding vessels anywhere from 30NM to 120NM from shore. Nigerian attacks also account for eight of the nine vessels fired upon worldwide – almost 90% of the total.

This highlights the continued need for effective and compliant security measures throughout vessel’s stay in GoG, especially Nigerian waters.

IMB Findings Jan to Jun 2016

25th April 2016

More attacks and kidnaps in Nigeria

The increase in attacks off the coast of Nigeria in 2016 continues

Two More Crew Kidnapped

17th April 2016

Nigerian Delta Coalition states Bonny Safe Anchorage is “fraudulent”

A local group in the Niger Delta are reported to have written to the President Muhammad Buhari, stating that the Bonny Safe Anchorage Area is carrying out “fraudulent” activities and charging “huge illegal fees” for their services

“The civil society group further revealed that “all manner of illegal activities are being carried out at the so called safe anchorage area located at about 12 nautical miles west of Bonny Fairway Buoy”…”

Full article Bonny Safe Anchorage “fraudulent” says local group

3rd March 2016

PPPFM & Vitol launch secure bunkering operation in Lagos supported by SAA

PPPFM  & their technical partners, Vitol have launched a new bunkering operation which is now fully operational in Nigerian Waters supported by the Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) West Africa.

Fully licensed by the Department of Petroleum Resources, PPPFM’s agreement with Vitol enables it to be able to guarantee clients the best quality bunker fuels in the West African region.
Bunkers are supplied to clients utilising PPPFM’s bunkering vessels / barges with all operations protected by the Secure Anchorage Area team.

PPPFM’s Lagos Office handles all local enquiries whilst PPPFM & Vitol are jointly marketing bunkers internationally from Vitol’s Hamburg office.
PPPFM’s West African Operations Centre, based within the Secure Anchorage Area Tactical Operations Centre in Lagos, Nigeria, co-ordinates and communicates with all parties and ensures 24/7 security coverage from the SAA Nigerian Navy Patrol Boats (when in Nigerian Waters).

If you would like a quotation or further information please contact adam@pppfmbunkers.com or wafbunkers@vitol.com

2nd March 2016

P&I Clubs Issue Caution Regarding Use of MTISC

BIMCO and The Standard Club issued a warning regarding an alleged security breach in the Maritime Trade Information Sharing Center, Gulf of Guinea (MTISC-GoG), potentially resulting in the release of ships’ data to pirates. This comes at a time when we have seen a sharp increase in hijacks and kidnappings in the GoG.

The insurance agency The Standard Club has informed on its website that members should be aware that there have recently been reports of a security breach in the Maritime Trade Information Sharing Centre, Gulf of Guinea (MTISC-GoG), stating “While this breach has not yet been formally confirmed, it is strongly advised that vessels should use caution when reporting to MTISC GoG”
The full release can be read here Standard Club News Release

BIMCO has recommended that vessels entering the area should “limit the provision of any information which would allow vessels to be identified or tracked.”. According to the BIMCO website “BIMCO have received reports of a security breach in the Maritime Trade Information Sharing Centre, Gulf of Guinea (MTISC-GoG), resulting in information being leaked to individuals with intent and capability to launch hijackings in the area”

Further information on the story can be found here Caution for vessels transiting West Africa

and here BIMCO warns of MTISC security breach

BIMCO members can read the full report here BIMCO news


18th February 2016

Sharp Increase in Nigeria/GoG Piracy Attacks – 2016

The first quarter of 2016 has seen a sharp increase in attempted boardings, suspicious activity and actual attacks in the region. The Norwegian Hull Club posted the following article on the subject earlier this week (16th Feb 2016). We ourselves have seen a sharp increase in reports of suspicious activity along the coast of Nigeria, with attempted and actual boardings of stowaways and suspected pirate vessels in the Lagos area.

The current spike in piracy activity is directly related to the loss of funds and patronage by former Niger Delta militants after the Buhari government terminated lucrative security contracts, reduced amnesty payments and removed political sponsors of the militant groups.

• In the short- to mid-term (up to 3 months) there will be a heightened (severe) threat of inshore and offshore attacks in and off the Niger Delta.
• Most attacks are highly likely to occur within 50nm of the Niger Delta coastline (e.g. an LNG carrier and a container ship on 5 February 2016), but sporadic attacks against targets may occur out to 120nm (like against a chemical tanker on 29 January or a container ship on 30 January 2016).
• The attackers’ intent will likely be to kidnap for ransom or armed robbery.
• Targeting will likely be opportunistic.

• The currently strained situation of the Nigerian fuel market is an encouragement for fuel/product theft in the short to mid-term and further, if sporadic, attacks against product tankers in the Gulf of Guinea are likely (possibly also drivers for attacks against two other chemical/product tankers (5 and 11 February 2016).
• Attacks against product tankers may occur close to the Niger Delta coast but also farther away with the support of mother vessels


Read the full report here Increase in attacks – GoG 2016

8th February 2016

2 vessels attacked – Bonny Fairway Buoy

At 0730, approx. MT PSKOV a Liberian flagged LNG tanker was approached by a speedboat with five or six armed personnel on board, a ladder was also sighted. The vessel increased speed and the boat ceased its approach after a few minutes. At 0810, 12 NM to the south of the fairway buoy MV SAF Marine Kuramo, a Singapore flagged container ship was approached by two speedboats, shots were fired towards the vessel from personnel on board the speedboats. The crew retreated into a citadel as the pirates boarded the ship.  

MV SAF Marine Kuramo was attacked 20 NM south of Bonny Fairway Buoy whilst heading to Onne. Nigerian navy ship Centenary along with other gunboats responded to MV SAF Marine Kuramo’s VHF distress call, which the ship’s Master possibly made from the citadel. By the time the pirates boarded the ship, the crew of 25 had retreated into the ship’s engine room; several shots, reported as audible on VHF, were fired at the room in an attempt to force the crew out. The pirates, who had been trying to enter the citadel, had fled the scene in order to evade capture when the Nigerian navy arrived.

The Master of MV SAF Marine Kuramo has stated that the 25 crew, who were locked into the citadel for up to 12 hours, were afraid that they might suffocate because of the stifling heat inside.

5th February 2016

Nigerian Navy arrest three suspected stowaways in Lagos

Three Nigerians who boarded a Europe bound Merchant Vessel have been arrested Thu 04 Feb 16 by operatives of the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) BEECROFT and handed over to the police for prosecution. The suspects, were said to have boarded the vessel through the rudder trunk and accessed manhole while the ship berthed at the National Oil Jetty (NOJ), Apapa, to discharge petroleum product.

3rd February 2016

Biafra militants claim they will blow up hijacked tanker

AT LEAST one and possibly two tankers have been hijacked in Nigeria over the weekend, with reports that Biafran militants are threatening to blow a vessel up unless the Nigerian government releases one of their imprisoned leaders.

Shipping sources in the country told Lloyd’s List that the situation is confused, and there are conflicting reports about exactly what has happened and which vessel or vessels are involved.

Read the full report here http://www.lloydslist.com/ll/sector/ship-operations/article478579.ece

1st February 2016

Suspicious activity – 100 NM southwest of Bayelsa State, Nigeria

It has been reported that two (2) speedboats were sighted approximately 100 NM southwest of Bayelsa State, Nigeria traveling at speeds of 24 knots in a westerly direction. Due to the distance from shore, it is likely the speedboats are using a Mother Vessel, however there has been no confirmed sighting of the Mother Vessel.

These speedboats were sighted approximately 85 NM northwest of the position of where MT Leon Dias was reported attacked. The pirates involved in that incident in which five (5) crew were kidnapped, and at least one mariner was injured, were also likely to be part of the same Pirate Action Group (PAG) that chased a container ship in this region close to midnight on 30 January.

Following the attack on MT Leon Dias, this PAG remains at large and the mother ship from which they are launching skiffs remains unaccounted for. Until regional security forces are able to locate and apprehend this gang, further attacks against shipping, aimed at kidnapping senior crew members for ransom may continue.

24th January 2016

Federal Government launches special military operation to tackle pipeline vandalism

The FG has launched a special military operation code-named operation AWATSU against pipeline vandals in the country. The Acting Director, Defence Information Sat 23 Jan 16, stated that the operatives of the special task force have arrested 25 members of the gang of vandals operating at the Arepo in Ogun State and parts of Lagos State. He said that the military was taking proactive steps to curtail the activities of the vandals in the Lagos axis.

19th January 2016

Nigeria needs effective maritime policy – Maritime Expert

For Nigeria to make headway in the global maritime industry, the country must be able to formulate a maritime policy through which it can maximize its potential in the sector. The observation was made by the Chief Executive Officer of Marine Platforms, Mr. Taofik Adegbite while addressing select journalists at the Victoria Island corporate headquarters of the maritime firm, he also observed that, the 2016 budget had not made proper provisions for the sector. According to the shipping magnate, the maritime policy which should be formulated by the Federal Government should be made to work with the country’s current cabotage law which he stated had been in existence since 2002. Adegbite later urged the Presidency to create a policy and strategy integration unit to coordinate and monitor government policies, their implementation and sustainability.

16th January 2016

Five suspected pipeline vandals arrested in Lagos

The Joint Task force on Anti-Pipeline vandalism Wed 13 Jan 16 handed over five suspected pipeline vandals to the Nigerian Securities and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC). Also handed over were nine motorcycles and 23 vehicles allegedly used for vandalism as well as two dane guns and 23 live ammunitions recovered from the vandals. The suspects, were nabbed by the Joint Taskforce on Anti-Pipeline vandalism operating from Ikorodu through Mosimi to Atlas Cove. The suspects are alleged to be members of a notorious pipeline vandalism syndicate that has continuously sabotaged the nation’s economy through siphoning Petroleum products from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipelines at Wawa, Arepo.

27th November 2015

Captain and 4 crew kidnapped off Bonny

SZAFIR  UPDATE 3 08/12/15:  It has now been reported by the Prime Minster of Poland that the five crew members who were kidnapped during this incident, have been released and are returning home. We shall update the report as more information becomes available

UPDATE 2:  On the night of November 26, a team of pirates in two boats boarded the Cyprus-registered ship Szafir and kidnapped her captain and four crew members, including other officers. Shots were fired although no casulaties have been reported.

At the time of the attack, the 6,000 gt geared freighter Szafir was anchored some 30-355 nm off the coast of Nigeria, according to Polish operator EuroAfrica

Security experts class the waters off Nigeria as some of the deadliest on earth, with pirates based in the country often targeting oil tankers as well as hostages to ransom. This is the second major attack on a commercial vessel near Nigeria in a month. Pirates kidnapped four crew members of a Comoros-flagged vessel off Port Harcourt in late October; two were released November 16

Full reports here Maritime Executive  gCaptain

UPDATE 1: Pirates managed to board a general cargo vessel (name TBC); on sighting the pirates the Master immediately had the engines stopped and the crew retreated to the Citadel. 5 crew members all of Polish nationality were unable to lock down. Reports state that all 5 crew members have been kidnapped; 4 officers and 1 AB.

INITIAL REPORT: It has been reported that a general cargo ship was approached by two speedboats around 70nm West of Bonny River Pilot Station, Nigeria. Arms were spotted in the speedboats. We will continue to monitor the situation and update as more confirmed information becomes available.


19th November 2015

Police arrest six members of kidnap syndicate in Oyo

The Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, on Wednesday said the the Oyo State Command of the force has arrested six members of a kidnapping syndicate operating in the State.

Arase spoke when he led senior police officers from Zone 11 on a courtesy visit to Governor Ajimobi in his Agodi office in Ibadan.

The IGP commended the state police command for its tireless effort towards ensuring the sustenance of security cross the state, adding that the suspects would soon be charged to court.

“I am delighted to inform the governor that six members of a kidnappe syndicate who had been terrorising the people of the state have been arrested and will soon be prosecuted. We will not spare any effort towards the provision of adequate security and maintenance of peace in the state.

“I must commend the governor for the provision of logistic support to the police command. I want to assure His Excellency and the good people of the state that the commissioner of police and other officers and men will continue to maintain and sustain the prevailing peace and security in the state.” Arase assured



18th November 2015

Pipeline vandals exchange gunfire in Lagos as soldiers raid hideout

Soldiers of the Ojo Cantonment of the Nigerian Army (NA) on Mon 16 Nov 15, stormed the hideout of a notorious pipeline vandalism syndicate operating behind the canal at the 7th Avenue area of FESTAC Town. Led by the Commanding Officer, NA Ojo Cantonment, Lieutenant Colonel Are, the Army raided the hideout of the pipeline vandals and an exchange of gunfire ensued. It was gathered that the operation was based on Monday’s meeting of the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 81 Division, Major General Isidore Edet, with all units under the division of the NA who reviewed Rules of Engagement in Internal Security Operations.

Read more here: http://www.thisdaylive.com/articles/army-pipeline-vandals


30th October 2015

Nigerian Navy to fight Oil Theft and Piracy

Nigerian Navy said yesterday it was adopting a new training regime aimed at improving troops’ proficiency in internal security operations across the country.

The Flag Officer Commanding, FOC, Naval Training Command, NAVTRAC, Rear Admiral Adeniyi Osinowo, disclosed this during familiarisation tour of navy training schools in Onne, Rivers State

He visited the Nigerian Navy College and Nigerian Navy Basic Training School, both at Onne, Eleme Local Government Area of the state.

Osinowo said the adoption of a new code of conduct in its training programmes was borne out of the Navy`s commitment to drastically reduce oil theft and sea piracy in the nation’s maritime environment.

He said, “Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Adm. Ibok-Ette Ibas, has come up with detailed strategic direction for the Nigerian Navy to improve its internal security operations.

Read more here http://nationalmirroronline.net/new/navy-adopts-measures-to-check-oil-theft-piracy/

28th October 2015

Crew Kidnapping Marks Return of Piracy to West Africa

Dryad reports that the incident occurred on Monday, October 19th when armed pirates attacked and boarded an unidentified refrigerated cargo ship underway off the Niger Delta. Once onboard, the pirates stole ship’s cash, destroyed equipment and kidnapped four crewmembers before escaping. Authorities have been notified, but so far the no details relating to the identity of the attacked vessel or the location of the kidnapped crewmembers, Dryad says.

“This is the first incident reported at sea off the Niger Delta in five months and has taken place 100 NM further west than the spate of kidnappings which took place earlier this year,” Dryad says in its analysis of the report. “It comes at a time when the Nigerian Navy are conducting increased patrols of the approaches to the Bonny River, and these patrols may have forced this criminal gang to look into operating in this wider area of West Africa.


2nd October 2015

Nigeria Seizes Oil Tanker

The Nigerian military has seized the M/T Askja which is suspected of transporting stolen crude oil. The tanker was anchored along the Forcados estuary outside of Warri City when Niger Delta’s Joint Task Force raided the ship. Local authorities have arrested the eight pirates aboard the Askja.

According to local reports, the Joint Task Force also raided and shut down several illegal refineries where stolen crude oil was being distilled.

Nigeria has been a hotbed for maritime piracy recently, and claims that it loses nearly $20 million per year due to oil theft.

Read more here http://maritime-executive.com/article/nigeria-seizes-oil-tanker

10th September 2015

Nigerian Tanker Ban Lifted

Nigeria has lifted a two-month ban on 113 tankers from operating in its sovereign waters.

In a statement, the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. (NNPC) said: “The President has graciously approved the consideration of all incoming vessels into the Nigerian territorial waters subject to receipt of a Letter of Comfort from all terminal operators and off-takers of Nigerian oil and gas as a guarantee that nominated ships are free and will not be utilized for any illegal activity whatsoever.”

Read more here http://maritime-executive.com/article/igernigeria-lifts-ban-on-113-tankers

20th August 2014

The Congo: A new piracy target?

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has never been envisioned as a maritime nation, nor has it been described as especially ‘fraught’ with pirate attack groups. Indeed, the DRC is virtually landlocked. It boasts a mere 37 kilometre (km)-long coastline, a diminutive size considering the entirety of the nation’s borders stretches to more than 10,730 kms in length. But with an increasing interest in regional development projects initiated largely by resource-hungry China, and prospects of greater integration with the DRC’s neighbour to the north, Congo-Brazzaville (also known as the Republic of the Congo), is this all about to change? In other words, could greater investment, combined with cooperation along the maritime front between the two “Congos” move the West African piracy target further south near the DRC?


Its limited seafront aside, there has been considerable interest as of late with regard to Congolese ports – as well as their potential security setbacks. To begin with, the DRC is abound with some of the world’s most coveted resources – diamonds, cobalt, coltan, oil, copper and gold to name a few – meaning that any ease in the accessibility of the Atlantic Ocean would prove beneficial to interested investors. At present, however, the DRC’s lack of viable maritime infrastructure and poor internal roads and railways have led to frustration. The three most utilised ports – Boma, Matadi and Banana – all have insufficient handling facilities and are bereft of appropriate security measures. On land, meanwhile, failing roads and outbursts of largely militia (or Maï-Maï)-led clashes, means that cross-country shipping is often delayed. As a result of these and other stumbling blocks, key stakeholders have essentially been compelled to rely on other African nations, both near and far, to conduct the DRC’s transporting for them. This is to say, trading is usually conducted on a regional basis within the DRC, with the southeastern corner of the nation, for example, forced to turn to Durban, South Africa for the exportation of mineral wealth. These laborious measures have naturally led to an all important question: is there an easier way?

In a word, yes. Increased financial support from countries, namely China, for Kinshasa’s proposed development projects could ease shipping complications. In what has been dubbed the “deal of the century”, China, for example, has already pledged to spend at least USS$6 billion to support the construction of roads, railways and other infrastructure, as well as set aside a considerable sum for the revamping of mining operations in Katanga. Access is also expected to be increased via the so-called “Chinese corridor”, which will likely involve the reconstruction of railways and roads leading from the DRC’s easternmost border with Uganda and Tanzania, south toward the frontier with Zambia, before heading west toward the Port of Matadi. For its part, the Port of Matadi is also slated to receive improvements, including a new multipurpose container terminal, with assistance from the Philippines-based International Container Terminal Services Inc (ICTSI). Of course, these investments take considerable time, and come at a price. In return for Beijing’s generosity, for instance, Sicomines, a consortium of Chinese companies, would be controversially granted a 68% stake in the DRC’s lucrative mining operations in Katanga, compared to 32% ownership by the Kinshasa-based Gecamines. As for the Port of Matadi, even these upgrades will likely not do enough to meet the requirements of Congolese trade. Indeed, some analysts suggest the DRC will also need to renovate its Port of Banana to compensate for any increase in demand. But at a projected sum of US$2 billion, this, too, will prove costly.

An alternative to these expensive and often controversial development projects could be to encourage greater relations with the ‘other Congo’ – that is, Congo-Brazzaville. The idea is that by further linking the bordering countries together, largely through investment in the proposed Kinshasa-Brazzaville Bridge, the two nations could effectively share access to the Port of Pointe Noire. But even this project has its caveats. Indeed, when combined with the skyrocketing expenses involved and the recent disagreements between the neighbouring states stemming from the expulsion of some 50,000 Congolese nationals from Congo-Brazzaville, such ambitions may appear lofty. However, the price of not having a proper connection between the two Congolese capitals – Kinshasa in the DRC, and Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo – may prove far too great. According to reports, due to a lack of competition in crossing services between the capitals, the movement of both goods and people has become inordinately expensive – so much so that a Kinshasa resident may need to set aside up to “80%” of his or her average monthly income to traverse the Congo River via the Malebo Pool. In other words, even if current political conditions preclude the immediate construction of the Kinshasa-Brazzaville Bridge, in the long run closer ties between the ‘two Congos’ may be inevitable – if only to facilitate trade both on land and, ultimately, by sea. Worryingly, however, greater shipping access to the Port of Pointe Noire could also enable the birth of a new Congolese ‘piracy target’ in an already insecure West Africa.


Greater investment and closer ties between Kinshasa and Brazzaville may prove beneficial in the long term, nevertheless, concerns have already grown regarding the potential influx of maritime criminal activity along the shared Congolese coastline. At present, maritime crime in the DRC remains a complex issue. As aforementioned, due to the DRC’s small shoreline, threats are often perceived as non-existent, or merely limited to inlets connecting to the vast Congo River, often described as the country’s “lifeblood”. Attacks along the DRC’s border with the Atlantic, in general, also appear minor when compared to that of more piracy-prone Congo-Brazzaville. Case in point: in 2011, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) recorded only 4 incidents in the DRC, whilst in 2012 just 2 cases were confirmed. Aside from the recent boarding attempt near Matadi Inner Anchorage on 04 August 2014, the situation in 2014 also appears relatively quiet. The DRC’s northern neighbour, Congo-Brazzaville, meanwhile has incurred an even greater tally of attacks and robberies along sea ports. For example, thus far in 2014, at least 4 robberies, or attempted robberies, have been reported near Pointe Noire, with some assailants brandishing weapons and threatening crew members in order to steal the ships’ stores. This was noted on 04 February 2014, when 2 men armed with knives boarded and robbed the UAL LOBITO, a Netherlands-flagged general cargo ship. Cases like these are believed to be even more prevalent, but some victims fear retribution from assailants and are therefore reluctant to publicise attacks. It is no wonder then, that some remain apprehensive over a possible increase in armed robberies and other more serious maritime crime should the ‘two Congos’ share their maritime operations.


Given the already uncertain security situation within both the DRC and Congo-Brazzaville, could attacks like these grow even more prevalent if the two nations increase their usage of the Port of Pointe Noire? Of course, a direct correlation between a stronger Congolese relationship and the rate of pirate attacks cannot be determined at present. However, it is likely that with increased access to shipping via improved maritime access, there will be a greater incentive for some pirates to ramp up their operations closer to the DRC and Congo-Brazzaville. The potential for such a change in operational location should not be discounted. The lucrative goods, particularly oil-related cargo, which could be on board vessels transiting the area may prove just too enticing for assailants. Moreover, one only needs to understand the increasing range, capability and overall brazenness of pirates, particularly those based in Nigeria, to see that some assailants may even be willing to travel far beyond the Congolese coastline to seize such coveted items – and ships. To be sure, a Liberia-flagged oil tanker as far south as Luanda, Angola, was already seized by Nigeria-based pirates in January 2014. Making matters worse, after taking the ship – known as the MT KERALA – the Nigerian pirates reportedly sailed toward Congo-Brazzaville, where they sold their first batch of stolen diesel, before eventually releasing the vessel on 26 January 2014. This attack not only illustrated the ability of Nigerian pirates to access Angolan waters; it also demonstrated the apparent lack of security along the shared Congolese coastline. Unfortunately, further attacks of this nature are conceivable. Like that of Nigeria, where an increase in oil production and exportation helped encourage the targeting of oil product tankers and other related assets, Congo-Brazzaville, the DRC, and Angola are also home to significant energy reserves and oil-related shipping. Consequently, when combined with the threat of emboldened Nigerian assailants and the possibility of greater cooperation along the maritime front, there is no question the West African piracy target could soon be pushed further south near the DRC.

Via: http://ggrwestafrica.com

Original Article

20th August 2014

Is Ghana becoming a piracy hot spot?

Two recent attacks have raised concerns that Ghana could be turning into a hot spot for piracy and armed robbery at sea. On Friday, 26 July, the oil tanker Hai Soon 6 was reported missing off Ghana’s coast. This followed after an attack on the oil tanker Fair Artemis, which had taken place on 4 June 2014. Given that this area is not known to be a piracy hot spot, these attacks should sound an alert to West African authorities to take quick action and prioritise cooperation in maritime security.

This latest incident demonstrates that no West African country can claim to be immune from piracy, despite assurances to the contrary from Ghanaian leaders. This also highlights, more broadly, that there is a prevailing lack of cooperation among the operational personnel who are responsible for maritime security in West Africa; something which pirates are exploiting.

The Ghanaian authorities have expressed confidence in the security of their coasts, and say that this is being achieved through a number of developments. These include the acquisition of patrol boats operated by the navy and maritime police; setting up of a vessel traffic management system; and security cooperation with neighbouring countries. Following the Fair Artemis hijacking, Paul Asare Ansah, Head of Public Relations for the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, stated that ‘Ghana regularly maintains the security of its anchorage, having obtained boats that constantly maintain vigilance over its waters together with the navy and the maritime police.’

Adding to this statement, James Agalga, Ghana’s Deputy Minister of the Interior, said that security measures make the coasts of Ghana ‘too dangerous for pirates to operate.’ Ghanaian authorities unanimously say that the Fair Artemis was hijacked in the maritime space belonging to Togo. It remains to be seen whether they will allege that the latest attack also took place in the waters of neighbouring Togo.

The situation that Ghana is experiencing is reminiscent of what happened in Côte d’Ivoire in 2012 and 2013. Côte d’Ivoire, under the illusion that it was safe from piracy, experienced four successive pirate attacks within four months: the Orfeas on 8 October 2012; the Madonna I on 23 December 2012, the Itri on 16 January 2013 and the Gascogne on 2 February 2013.

As a result, Côte d’Ivoire port authorities have since conceded that there is no secure maritime route, as the pirates have continued to be unpredictable and strike where least expected.

It is important to note that the pirates released the Hai Soon 6 on Sunday 3 August – after stealing part of the cargo – around 60 nautical miles east of Lagos, Nigeria, leaving the crew unharmed. For this hijacking, the Gulf of Guinea pirates followed their usual modus operandi. The pirates took control of the ship late at night (around 11:40pm) while the tanker was engaged in a trans-shipment operation with another vessel. They disconnected the ship’s communication and automatic identification systems, steered her towards an isolated area to sell the cargo and then abandoned the ship, without harming the crew members.

An effective response to counter maritime security threats requires human resources, technical resources and a coordination system. In West Africa, the human resources exist in terms of the number of staff and their qualifications; and technical resources are being acquired – as shown by recent statements regarding the procurement of patrol boats.

The most important issue in combating piracy is therefore not necessarily the issue of resources, but rather the lack of effective cooperation and coordination between maritime security bodies.

This regional problem is also relevant to Ghana where, despite political assurances to the contrary, there is scant evidence of any significant cooperation between the navy and the maritime police.

This cooperation, which is crucial for managing the maritime domain, is also lacking in other West African countries.

In Nigeria, for instance, the navy and the maritime police need to coordinate their activities and increase collaboration – as demonstrated by the incident of the Histria Coral.

On 23 October 2013, a Nigerian maritime police unit mistook a small boat transporting Nigerian navy personnel for a pirate boat and opened fire on the vessel. Fearing the anger of the navy, the policemen locked themselves into the Histria Coral’s citadel (a safe room designed for crew members to seek protection in the event of an attack) for days before they were arrested.

In Côte d’Ivoire, while a maritime strategy is being established, the navy and the General Directorate of Maritime and Port Affairs are involved in a tug-of-war around a decree (decree 2014-181 signed on 10 April 2014). The Directorate believes that the decree deprives it of its operational missions.

Senegal is no exception either. In 2006, the High Authority for the coordination of maritime security, maritime safety and marine environment protection was created. Despite this, the country has yet to resolve the challenges created by the often-acrimonious relationship between the navy and the National Agency of Maritime Affairs.

It is encouraging that attention is being focused on maritime security in West Africa through the acquisition of technical resources such as patrol boats. However, the threat of escalated piracy will remain as long as there is lack of cooperation and coordination between maritime security forces.

Barthelemy Blede, Senior Researcher, Conflict Management and Peacebuilding Division, ISS Dakar

Via: http://www.issafrica.org

Original Article

23rd June 2014

Nigeria: NPA Begins ISPs Code Implementation at the Ports

There were strong indications that vessels entering into Nigerian ports are now compelled to operate on security level 2, in tandem with the requirements of the International Ships and Ports Facility Security (ISPS) Code.

Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) was said to have begun the move in a bid to meet the demands of the United States of America (USA).

This is coming on the heels of the 22 ports in the country being declared compliant with the provisions of the ISPS Code by the United States Coast Guard (USCG).

The designated authority (DA) in Nigeria, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) said in a statement issued in Lagos that these were revealed in an engagement between the officials of the United States government and the agency.

It said the US government acknowledged the efforts of the agency in raising the security levels of ships and port facilities in Nigeria and assured of its commitment to continue to partner with Nigeria to improve security measures.

NPA Assistant General Manager, Public Affairs, Mr Musa Iliyah who confirmed the immediate implementation of ISPS Code in Nigerian ports said it was a management directive which applies to all ships entering the nation’s seaports or port terminals.

Continuing, Iliyah said: “It is part of the additional security measure taken by management to ensure the strict compliance to the ISPS Code, by all visiting vessels. NPA had also concluded the process of acquiring additional security equipment to enhance the safety and security at the nation’s seaports. The equipment were expected to be fully in place before the end of next September.”

According to him, the equipment which would include X-ray and scanning machines, water front patrol boats, as well as computerized access control gate with CCTV system, would on arrival be distributed and deployed to selected port locations in both the Western and Eastern Ports, particularly, the ports in Apapa, Tin Can Island, Onne, and Delta Ports.

He explained that the provision of these additional security equipment would not only enhance both the safety of port operations and port users at the nation’s ports but would also guarantee the safety of all visiting ships as required by the provisions of the ISPS Code.

Iliyah added that a visit by NPA Managing Director, Alhaji Habib Abdullahi had shown that some terminal operators were already fully in tune with the provisions of the ISPS Code within their domains.


17th June 2014

Nigeria moves to safeguard security at ports.

Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) said it will not allow vessels which are not compliant with International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) requirements to berth at the nation’s ports.

In addition, the NPA is ramping up security hardware at a range of ports.

Vessels berthing in Nigeria must now meet a national ship security plan that is synonymous with Level 2 of the ISPS code.

Managing director of the NPA, Malam Habib Abdullahi, said in a statement on 12 June that the ship security plans had taken effect from that day onward, further adding that “all the newly acquired security equipment is expected to be in place before the end of September”.

The equipment Mr Abdullahi referred to includes CCTV systems, X-Ray machines and security scanners, as well as a number of waterfront patrol boats and computerised port gates which allow a meticulous level of control in deciding who is granted access into Nigerian ports.

Nigeria’s The Guardian, reported that the equipment is likely to feature in the ports of Apapa, Tin Can Island, Rivers, Onne, Calabar and Delta, with a view to ensuring the safety of ships and their cargo.

The move for greater security will go some distance in easing the collective concern around issues of piracy and armed robbery in the region.

Former Nigerian president Ernest Shonekan recently told the Premium Times that “Nigeria needs to collaborate with other African countries to tackle critical issues in the maritime industry.”

He concluded: “Nigerians must realise that our new position as the leading economy in Africa places some heavy responsibilities on the country.”

These heavy responsibilities provide the context that has brought the NPA to advance its security given that Nigeria is increasingly a key player in the global market.

Via: http://www.porttechnology.org

29th May 2014

Chinese, Nigerian navies conduct joint anti-piracy drill

The 16th escort taskforce of the Navy of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLAN) and Nigerian Navy launched a joint anti-piracy drill in the Gulf of Guinea on May 27, 2014.

It’s the first time that Chinese and Nigerian navies have launched such a drill in a bid to enhance coordination and cooperation between China and Nigeria in maintaining maritime security and conducting anti-piracy action.

Via: http://english.peopledaily.com.cn

29th May 2014

We are winning war against pirates – Navy

The Nigerian Navy at the weekend, said it was winning the war against pirates operating within the country’s territorial waters.

The Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Ilesanmi Alade, who made the assertion, said that the waters within the command’s area of operations and even beyond, had become calm for legitimate maritime business to thrive.

He said that between January and now, over 38 ship caught committing illegalities within the country’s territorial waters were arrested, especially with the declaration of the naval headquarters under the leadership of Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin, that it would not tolerate illegalities within Nigeria’s territorial waters.

Admiral Alade, who spoke during a thanksgiving service to mark the 58th anniversary of the force at the St Andrew’s Anglican Church in Navy Town, Ojo, urged those plotting illegalities at sea to desist as the Nigerian Navy would not spare them.

Earlier, in his goodwill message, the Chief of Naval Staff stressed that as the Navy strives towards achieving the transformation agenda of this administration, security was key to its overall attainment.

He said that the Nigerian Navy’s transformation plan was anchored on the vision to emplace a force that was adequately motivated and capable of effectively combating the security challenges in Nigeria’s maritime domain.

Admiral Jibrin, who was represented by Rear Admiral Alade, said the top hierarchy of the force was aware of the constraints to its operations and the myriad of welfare problems facing naval personnel, adding that improved welfare would remain the cornerstone of his regime.

He said: “ I will do all in my powers with available resources at my disposal to improve your welfare, notably in the areas of new barracks accommodation, quality training and provision of uniforms, amongst others.

“While we strive to address the welfare problems, I urge you to continue collectively and individually conduct yourselves and discharge your duties with the highest sense of integrity, teamwork and professionalism.”

I sincerely appreciate your immense support and look forward to working more closely with you to achieve our shared aspirations for improved security not only in our maritime environment but in other areas in the overall national interest.”

Earlier, the officiating priest, Rev Babatunde Ajayi harped on the need to  curtail the activities of the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents and that the Almighty God can deliver this nation from the hands of extremists.

He said that God cannot do this if Nigerians do not come together to fight the menace of Boko Haram, adding that where there is a threat, there is a solution from the threat.

Quoting from the book of Esther 4 verse 1-4, Rev Ajayi said if only Nigerians can represent from their sins, then the Almighty God will deliver Nigeria from the threats of insurgents.

He criticized God fatherism and cultism within the Armed Forces, urging Nigerians to go to God in time of troubles as god fatherism will not help anybody.

The first and second lesson were taken by Rear Admiral Alade and Rear Admiral Goddy Anyamkpele respectively.

25th May 2014

Navy Arrests 38 Ships Over Alleged Illegalities Activities In Nigeria

The Nigerian Navy on Wednesday in Abuja said it arrested 38 ships involved in illegal activities in the waterways in the country from January 2014 to date.

Chief of Policy and Plans, at the Naval Headquarters, Rear Adm. Ameen Ikioda, made this known at a news conference to mark the 58th anniversary of the Nigerian Navy.

Ikioda said that eight of ships belonged to Chinese companies and were impounded for illegal fishing activities in Nigerian waters.

He said the navy had been unrelenting in its operations to protect the nation’s maritime environment against all forms of threats.

According to him, the navy constantly carries out surveillance and patrol of the maritime areas with available surveillance systems, ships and helicopter.

He explained that the operations were specifically aimed at checking crude oil theft, illegal bunkering, piracy and sea robbery and illegal fishing, adding that the authorities were encouraged by the success recorded so far.

Ikioda said that naval personnel were also involved in internal security operations in some states, including Adamawa, Benue, Nasarawa, Plateau and Yobe.

He said the recapitalisation of the naval fleet was top priority in the consideration of the authorities, adding that a double-pronged strategy toward achieving the objective had been adopted.

The chief of ploicy and plans said the navy had acquired some ships from friendly countries to Nigeria, while the force was complementing the effort with local construction of ships.

“In this regard, the United States Coast Guard Cutter Gallatin was transferred to the Nigerian Navy on May 7, 2014 at Charlestone, South Carolina.

“The ship which has been renamed NNS OKPABANA is expected to sail from the United States in the third quarter of the year to join the naval fleet.

“In the same vein, the navy has acquired 2×1800-tonne Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) on order from China.

“One of the OPVs, NNS CENTENARY, is expected to join the fleet before the end of this year,’’ he said.

Ikioda said that about 30 per cent of the OPVs would be constructed in the Naval Shipyard in Port Harcourt in partnership with the shipbuilding yard in China.

He also said that “5xK-47” boats were currently under construction in the Netherlands and would also join naval fleet before the end of the year.

Ikioda said activities lined up for the anniversary in the five commands, include “special” jumat prayers, church service, medical rhapsody and community relations in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Calabar. (NAN)

Via: http://leadership.ng

25th May 2014

The World’s Most Violent Pirates

West Africa is home to the world’s most violent pirates—who are now capable of overwhelming armed guards. Last month pirates killed a crewmember during an attack on German-owned oil tanker. Instead of fighting off the pirates, the embarked security team retreated to the ship’s citadel safe room.

For the shipping and insurance worlds, the widespread adoption of armed guards aboard vessels essentially “solved” Somali piracy, as no vessel employing them has been hijacked by pirates. An attempt to transfer this panacea to the pirate-prone waters of West Africa, however, has proved inadequate and ill-suited to local conditions.

On the night of April 29 pirates attacked SP Brussels about 35 nautical miles off the coast of Nigeria. Local security forces guarding the vessel were unable to prevent the pirates from boarding and retreated to ship’s citadel along with the crew. The guards did not emerge until the following morning, only to find that the ship’s chief engineer had been killed and another crewmember injured; they failed to reach the citadel.

That incident and others like it highlight three important issues that distinguish West African maritime crime from that in other parts of the world.

First are the distinctive operating environment, in which international naval patrols are absent; the limited response capacity of regional security forces; and the prohibition on the use of foreign armed guards.

Second is the uniquely violent nature of Nigerian pirates and their propensity to engage in shootouts with security forces.

Finally, there are the multiple shortcomings of using local armed guards aboard vessels and the inherent danger the shipping industry faces in being overly reliant on that measure.

Getting Around the Neighborhood

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is a Nigeria-centric problem that primarily occurs within 100 nautical miles of the coast and targets the ships plying the regional oil trade. Local naval forces have provided a modicum of security for transiting vessels, but their ability to respond to pirate attacks outside of territorial waters and secure anchorages is limited. The pirate’s proximity to shore coupled with local concerns over state sovereignty has prevented international naval operations from deploying as they have off Somalia.

Those same confines have restricted Private Maritime Security Companies (PMSCs) from operating in the region as national laws prohibit foreign guards from carrying weapons within the 12nm limit of territorial waters. For embarked security, shipowners are forced to rely on armed guards contracted from littoral states. Those guns on deck, drawn from national police and naval forces, are often poorly trained and undermanned, making them ill-equipped to match the threat they face.


recent UN report found that pirate attacks in West Africa from 2006 to 2013 have been proportionally more severe (involving vessel hijacking, hostage-taking and violent acts toward crew members) than those in the Western Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia. West African pirate attacks have also become more violent over time, the report notes, particularly from 2011 onward. International Maritime Bureau data records show more crewmembers were injured and killed off Nigeria than other country from 2012 to the first quarter of 2014.

Regionally distinct pirate “business models” partially explain this phenomenon. When Somali pirates hijack a vessel, they must ensure that the hostages are kept alive so that ransom negotiations for the return of the entire crew and ship can proceed smoothly.

West African hijackings, by comparison, are usually “extended duration robberies,” in which the crew and vessel are only held hostage until the ship can be pumped of its petroleum cargo. When maritime kidnappings occur, pirates take only the most valuable (usually Western or Asian) officers for ransom while leaving the rest of the crew and vessel behind. Under both scenarios, the majority of the crew hold no value for the pirates, and are thus considered disposable assets.

Armed to the Teeth

West African pirates are also better armed and trained than other maritime criminals, reportedly wielding heavy machines guns, such as M60s, and RPGs. Many of these weapons are “legacy firearms” circulating from previous African conflicts, while others are sold or rented from corrupt security forces.

This heavy armament is a product of the pirate’s proximity to their onshore bases in the Niger Delta, which allows them to carry more weight in weapons and ammo and less in fuel and water than their Somali counterparts. Nigerian pirates also display military-grade tactics, explains Kevin Doherty, owner of PMSC Nexus Consulting: “They know how to skillfully maintain and fire their weapons, they ambush security forces, and they board vessels with tactical precision.”

The weapons and tactics displayed by the pirates are often superior to those of the security personnel hired to protect vessels, notes a report from the counterpiracy think tank Oceans Beyond Piracy. As a result, local soldiers contracted to guard ships have reportedly hidden during pirate attacks. “They hide, just like that,” exclaimed a regional seafarer. “When we ask them why they hide, their answer is simple, ‘The weapons of rebels and pirates are stronger.’” An alternative explanation, often anecdotally reported, is that naval guards have colluded with pirates in exchange for a share of profits.

Nigerian pirates are often undeterred by onboard security forces and willing to use deadly force to achieve their objectives. While shootouts between pirates and embarked security are exceedingly rare in the Indian Ocean, they are becoming increasingly common in the Gulf of Guinea, resulting in multiple casualties.

Fatal Nigerian Pirate Attacks 2012-2014*
Date & Location Incident Details Casualties
Feb. 13, 2012 

100 nautical miles South of Lagos, Nigeria

Pirates fired on, boarded, and robbed a drifting bulk carrier, MVFourseas, off the coast of Nigeria. The pirates killed the ship’s master during the robbery, while chief engineer died from injuries sustained during an attempted escape. Master and chief engineer killed.
Aug. 3, 2012 

45 nautical miles SW of Bonny Island, Nigeria

Pirates armed with AK-47s overpowered the Nigerian naval personnel guarding an oil barge,Jascon 33, and kidnapped four crewmembers for ransom. Two Nigerian guards killed, two guards injured, four crewmembers kidnapped.
Dec. 13, 2012 

25 nautical miles SW offshore, Bayelsa, Nigeria

Pirates armed with machine guns attacked an offshore supply vessel, PM Salem, and engaged in a 20-minute firefight with onboard security guards before retreating. One Nigerian guard killed, one guard injured.
Feb. 4, 2013 

Lagos Anchorage, Nigeria

Pirates attacked and boarded an anchored chemical tanker, Pyxis Delta, conducting STS operations off Lagos. The onboard naval security returned fire and eventually repelled the attackers. One crewmember died from injuries sustained during the firefight. Two pirates were also killed.
Feb. 5, 2013 

Near Angiama, Niger Delta waterway, Nigeria

Gunmen ambushed an Indian-owned oil barge as a Nigerian military detachment escorted the ship through the Niger Delta. Two Nigerian soldiers killed, one crewmember killed, three crewmembers wounded.
April 29, 2014 

35 nautical miles W offshore Bayelsa, Nigeria

Armed pirates boarded a product tanker, SP Brussels, under way. The onboard security forces fired at the pirates before retreating to the citadel along with most of the crew. Chief engineer killed, third officer wounded. Two pirates were also killed.

The Wrong Answer

Armed guards aboard ships in West Africa do not provide the silver bullet security solution that PMSCs have in the Indian Ocean.

A key differentiator in the latter theatre is that ship owners have a number of tools for vetting the quality and compliance of the armed security they hire.

For example, the GUARDCON contract developed by BIMCO, the largest international shipping association, provides a standard agreement between ship owners and PMSCs that covers guidance on Rules of Force and other security issues. In addition, there is the ISO/PAS 28007accreditation that allows PMSCs to certify their compliance with appropriate regulations and best practices.

Vetting and compliance is much more problematic in West Africa as vessel owners and masters have far less oversight over the armed guards they bring aboard. Owners can either hire security forces directly through a local agent, or engage a PMSC to act as an intermediary to employ local guards and provide unarmed logistical support and leadership. In either case,BIMCO notes, the local security forces will operate under their own rules of engagement and cannot be bound to the provisions of GUARDCON.

When a vessel contracts local security, it is the soldiers’ commander, not the shipowner, who usually controls the number of guards posted. An undermanned and poorly drilled guard team bears responsibility for the fatality aboard the SP Brussels, argues Rene Toomse, CEO of the PMSC Aburgus. “What was missing,” Toomse explains, “was a guard assisting all the crew into the citadel while others were fighting with the criminals.” The vessel had only two armed guards on board at the time of the attack, rather than the BIMCO-recommended staffing of four.

Maritime insurers and PMSC owners have privately expressed reservations that an over-reliance on guards is contributing to lax safety and security standards in West African waters. One source close to the London insurance market noted a particular problem of vessels with embarked security rejecting advisories to avoid prolonged exposure in high risk-areas close to the Niger Delta, opting instead to save time and fuel by using shorter routes and “shooting their way out” of any potential pirate attacks. The majority of those incidents, it was further noted, are never reported to authorities and thus contribute to a cycle of inaccurate threat perceptions and inadequate security measures.

Multiple Layers

It is very unlikely that the laws barring foreign armed guards from West African territorial waters will change, despite pressure from PMSCs and shipping organizations. Concerns over sovereignty and control understandably run deep, particular in Nigeria, and the current regime of renting local guards to foreign ships is too lucrative to give up. Unarmed PMSC advisors working with local guards offers an improved measure of security, but BIMCO still warns that the ability of PMSC leaders to effectively control their teams will be limited.

As no single defense against West African piracy is impenetrable, a multilayered security system must be implemented. This begins with a pre-transit risk and security assessment and requires up-to-the-minute information on pirate activity and vessel vulnerabilities. Communication security is also essential, as pirates are known to select their targets by obtaining route and cargo information from open and private sources. Vessel-hardening measures such as the use of citadel safe rooms are key, but it is also imperative that crews are regularly drilled for emergencies. Vessels also need a well-staffed 24-hour watch as West African pirates primarily attack at night.

Even with all those measures in place, the most important lesson to draw from the SP Brusselsand other fatal pirate attacks is that no vessel should ever be lulled into a false sense of security.

Re-used with the kind permission of the author.

25th May 2014

US moves to curb oil theft, piracy in Gulf of Guinea

As part of its determination to help Nigeria curb the incidence of pirate attacks and sea robbery on Nigerian bound ships, the government of United States of America, is concluding arrangements to actively assist Nigeria and her West African neighbours in line with its bi-national commission agreement with Nigerian government.

Consequent upon this, the US government has also perfected plans to hand over another warship to Nigerian Navy so as to complement the joint efforts of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and Nigerian Navy in the fight against illegalities in the nation’s territorial waterways.

Presenting a welcome address to the visiting Senate and House Committee members on Marine Transport in the Embassy of Nigeria in Washington DC at the weekend, Ade Adefuye, who disclosed that Nigeria is receiving a lot of corporation from America to boost regional and internal security challenges that are confronting the nation’s economy, said that Nigeria would before the end of May, take delivery of another warship from America to complement the NNS thunder that was given to Nigerian Navy in the past.

To him, the donation of the warship is in line with the implementation of the regional security agreement, which is the fourth aspect of the bi-national commission agreement that Nigeria signed with the Obama regime.

Responding to this, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, chairman, House Committee on Marine Transport, who was the leader of National Assembly delegation to US on capacity building on the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, commended the efforts of the Nigerian ambassador to US in helping Nigeria to get a second flagship, which according to him, would be used in combating the security threats in the nation’s coastline.

According to him, international support in the fight against terrorism would not only help Nigeria to rise above the security challenges confronting the country, it would also help to properly position Nigeria as the leading economy in Africa as well as the sixth largest economy in the world.

The capacity building participated by the National Assembly members, he noted, has helped in equipping the members with the essential universal standards in maritime security as stipulated by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), so as to position them in contributing appropriately towards the fight against terrorism in Nigeria.

In addition to this, Gyang Pwajok, a member of the delegates, who expressed worries over the rising incidences of illegal oil bunkering as well as oil theft in the Gulf of Guinea, also solicited for the support of American Government in putting an end to the illegal act that has been eating deep into the nation’s economy.

“Nigeria needs international collaboration from countries to put an end to the existing markets for stolen oils. This is because if there is no market for stolen oil, the perpetrators of the ugly acts would have no choice other than to put an end to it. And in doing this, it would create an avenue for Nigerians to effectively enjoy the nation’s natural resources,” the senator added.

Patrick Akpobolokemi, the director general of NIMASA, stated that the agency had resolved to implement the stipulations of the ISPS Code so as to ensure quality security of ships and cargoes at the port. The NIMASA boss, who was represented by Obi Callistus Nwabueze, executive director, Maritime Labour and Cabotage Services of the agency, disclosed that the agency had an engagement that would enable it implement ISPS Code with the US Coast Guard as the designation authority in Nigeria.

The NIMASA boss, who described the US capacity building as the consolidation of the agency efforts in the implementation of the security code in Nigerian port system, further stated that the agency is committed to achieving a safe maritime domain for coastal and international trade to thrive.

NIMASA has been committing a huge chunk of its fund to acquire platforms in conjunction with private companies to ensure the security of ships that are calling Nigerian seaports. This is why the agency has a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Nigerian Navy to constantly patrol and carry out air surveillance of the nation’s maritime domain.

Via: http://businessdayonline.com

25th May 2014

Navy arrest ships laden with crude oil in Rivers

Tokunbo Oloke

THE Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Pathfinder has seized two badges loaded with 285 metric tonnes of stolen crude oil worth N50 million.

The Commanding Officer, Forward Operating Base, Bonny, Captain Hassan Dogara, said operatives of the NNS Pathfinder in Port Harcourt impounded the badges off Bonny Island in Rivers State.

Dogara, who spoke with newsmen in Bonny, disclosed that while 11 suspects were arrested during the operation on April 23, 55 out of the 285 tonnes of the crude oil were set ablaze. He said the other perpetrators of the crime took to their heels before the operatives of the Nigerian Navy could reach them, explaining that the badges, which were filled to the brim, had some leakages and some of the contents spilled into the creeks.

“Troops under my command on 23 April intercepted and arrested two-wooden badges containing an estimated 230 tonnes of suspected crude oil during a routine patrol of its area of responsibility.

“While our operatives approached the scene of the crime, the perpetrators fled. But we were able to arrest 11 suspects afterwards, impounded five speed boats and five patrol engines.”

According to him, the Navy was currently taking custody of 230 tonnes of the product, while awaiting further directives from the Eastern Naval Command.

Dogara recalled that the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral UsmanJubrin, had ordered strategic deployment of troops on the nation’s waterways with a view to putting an end to oil theft and sea piracy.

He said based on the directive, the navy would continue to conduct 24-hour surveillance on the waterways in order to stop illegalities within the coastal areas.

In another development, the Nigerian Navy on Monday, handed over a merchant vessel, MT Good Success, loaded with 1,940 metric tonnes of petrol to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The vessel was arrested by the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS), Andoni, ordered by Captain ChidiOkpala, in Lagos, after it was discovered that the vessel contained 1,940 metric tonnes of petrol instead of the 350 metric tonnes of AGO it was licensed to load.

During the hand over, the Commander NNS BEECROFT, Commodore OvenseriUwadiae, said after the Navy’s preliminary investigation, a prima facie case was established against the vessel and in line with extant provisions. He said naval headquarters in Abuja gave directives to handover the vessel to the EFCC for further investigation and prosecution.

“MT Good Success has clearannce to carry 350 metric tonnes of AGO, but upon arrest by NNS Andoni, it was discovered that instead of the AGO it was cleared to carry, the vessel had 1,940 metric tonnes of PMS.

“The conditions for clearance for AGO and PMS are not the same because of the subsidy regime in place for PMS and so the ship was impounded. We are using this opportunity to warn members of the public that the game is over.

“The years when illegalities thrived in our maritime domain are over. People must follow due process and ensure they have documents to back their dealings because the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral UsmanJibrin, has mandated us to ensure the law takes its full course on those found wanting,” he said.

Although the vessel and its content would be kept in the navy’s custody as requested by the EFCC, Uwadiae said the commission should ensure that a letter was written to that effect, so that it would be clearly stated that the Navy was keeping the vessel for EFCC.

EFCC’s Counter Terrorism and General Investigation boss, AminuAliyu, said the agency would commence investigation.

Source: http://www.tribune.com.ng

1st May 2014

Why the dangerous new turn for piracy matters

Off the western coast of Africa, just north of the equator, the Gulf of Guinea has endured piracy for decades. But recent spikes in new, more dangerous forms of piracy imply a troubling sense of invincibility in the minds of the perpetrators. Pirates have become more sophisticated, more brash. They think they can operate with impunity.

Consider recent reports of two large tankers going missing in the gulf. These hijacked vessels reportedly maneuvered freely, while pirates transferred their stolen cargo, confident they could filter it back into the market.

Such acts of piracy destabilize regions and contribute to an insecure environment. They also have very real international implications, producing ripples that spread throughout the global economy. For example, Nigeria, the region’s lynchpin, is the world’s fourth-leading exporter of liquefied natural gas. Forty-three percent of its exports go to Europe, accounting for one-fifth of the continent’s non-EU gas imports.

Meanwhile, Russia is using its gas supply to exert diplomatic and economic pressure in their current conflict with Ukraine.

This underscores the importance of diverse, secure energy sources for global stability, as well as the stake that the EU and NATO have in the security of the Gulf of Guinea.

Nigeria’s energy-based economy also creates a single point of failure that could have regional and global repercussions. Given piracy’s effect on corporate profits, it’s not difficult to imagine oil companies withdrawing from the gulf, devastating Nigeria’s economy and destabilizing the entire region.

There’s clearly plenty on the line. But what’s causing piracy in the first place?

While these heists take place at sea, their origins rest ashore. Marginally functional governments with limited security capability or capacity are to blame, as are the transnational organized criminal networks – including white-collar business and government leaders – that exploit the region’s instability.

More from GPS: How to fight piracy

Poor governance in Nigeria, for instance, has produced insurgent-like activities, which have in turn produced piracy. (Nigeria is currently fighting a violent insurgency in the North, having brokered a fragile peace in the Niger Delta, the region’s greatest source of buccaneering.) Meanwhile, the transnational organized criminal networks seize on this chain of instability for political and economic gain.

With so many factors at play in the Gulf of Guinea, how can piracy be stopped?

The key is eliminating the unstable environment that transnational organized criminal networks prey on. This will require sustained political will to improve governance, increase transparency, reduce corruption, and create economic opportunity. (This approach marks an important difference from anti-piracy efforts around the Horn of Africa, where the lack of a functional government in Somalia has allowed the United Nations to give other nations carte blanche to patrol Somali waters. This would be untenable in the Gulf of Guinea region, where piracy crosses the borders of numerous nations whose comparatively functional governments would resist such foreign intervention.)

This effort must be shaped and led by Africa. However, since Europe and the United States have skin in the game, too, there are many ways they can lend a hand over the long term. For a start, the United States should use its diplomatic and economic leverage to create and sustain political will in the region and require transparency and accountability to gain popular trust and erode corruption. It also should provide significant, targeted economic and infrastructure development (e.g., increase refinery capacity, develop commercial fisheries), help modernize the region’s domestic laws and judicial system to address piracy, and target white-collar government and business officials who support transnational organized criminal networks.

To address piracy in the short term, the international community must aid Gulf of Guinea states through improved maritime awareness, presence, and interdiction capabilities, supported with better intelligence. The international community, meanwhile, should support successful implementation of the Gulf of Guinea Code of Conduct, reexamine the role of armed security to harden targets and enhance intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, reinforce EU/NATO security presence while regional nations build their capacity, deploy dedicated maritime patrol aircraft for support, and better coordinate international support for African initiatives.

Sustained success in the gulf will demand much of the international community: substantial financial and physical support, political will, and patience. Progress will be measured in years, if not generations, but everyone will benefit because of it.

Piracy, as dangerous and destabilizing as it is, is merely a symptom. The real disease is the scourge of transnational organized criminal parasites feeding off the region’s instability. A true cure must stem from the political will of sovereign states and their commitment to improve governance and service.

23rd April 2014

Is Piracy Eradicated?

Maritime piracy is the commission of criminal acts at sea; it has been a feature of the oceans for as long as seafarers have ventured from shore. Piracy encompasses all manner of unlawful depredations at sea, including theft, assault, hostage taking, and murder, and therefore is part of the human condition and cannot be completely eradicated. Piracy springs from a breakdown of civil authority and law enforcement on land, and a lack of good order at sea, so it is less prevalent where there is stable governance and the rule of law. The collapse of official authority in Somalia after 1991, for example, set off a ruinous economic depression and a shift in power from organs of the state to clan-based warlords. Destitute coastal fishermen began to seek compensation in the form of fish or cash from foreign factory fishing vessels poaching the Somali Basin. Seeing opportunities for even greater rewards through hijacking and hostage taking, by the mid-2000s, well-armed militia entered the foray. From 2005-2011, the incidence of maritime piracy off the coast of Somalia skyrocketed, forcing policymakers for the first time in generations to think about the origins of maritime piracy, the factors that affect its spatial distribution, and how to effectively counter it.

At the dawn of recorded history, individual marauders, brigands, and bandits plied every corner of the globe, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Baltic Sea, and the Arabian Sea to the South China Sea. From ancient times through the middle of the nineteenth century, states used pirates as an economical means of engaging in naval warfare. Lacking the funds to construct a proper navy, for example, the American colonials licensed privateers to conduct raids on British shipping during the Revolutionary War. At the same time, the Barbary principalities of the Ottoman Empire—situated along the coast of North Africa in contemporary Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, and Algeria—waged a two hundred year campaign of terror against European and American shipping in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, capturing in the process some 800,000 Caucasian and Christian slaves.

During the early years of the American Republic, cases involving maritime piracy clogged the dockets of U.S. federal courts. In the aftermath of the Crimean War, the European powers resolved to end state-sanctioned piracy or privateering as a method of warfare. The 1856 Paris Declaration Respecting Maritime Law abolished privateering. Thereafter, only warships could seize enemy commercial ships as prize, or inspect neutral vessels to determine the enemy character of their cargo. Piracy returned to its origin as a criminal act, and it was regarded as so heinous a crime that courts in the United States and the United Kingdom acknowledged that any nation could bring perpetrators to justice. For nearly 150 years, the incidence of maritime piracy was rather subdued, as a large British Royal Navy—later complemented by an immense U.S. Navy, maintained global freedom of the seas. During the Cold War, the naval forces of the Soviet bloc states and those of the Western alliance system prevented the emergence of piracy in most of the oceans. The rules for universal jurisdiction against maritime piracy were codified in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which was adopted at a general diplomatic conference in 1982. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 precipitated a huge surge in international maritime trade at the same time that naval force structure in the East and West plummeted.

Contemporary piracy

During the 1990s and early-2000s, the incidence of piracy was greatest in Southeast Asia. Ethnic enclaves operating from islands in Indonesia and the Philippines struck international shipping throughout the region. Insurance giant Lloyds of London implemented war risk insurance rates for ships transiting the 500-mile Strait of Malacca. In order to address the threat and reassure the 50,000 ships that transit the area annually, Asian states implemented a number of responses that helped to suppress piracy. The littoral states of Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia initiated combined air and surface patrols throughout strait. This cooperation was promoted by generous contributions from Japan and other countries to establish a counter-piracy Information Sharing Centre in Singapore to coordinate responses among 16 regional states. The 2004 Christmas earthquake and tsunami, which killed upwards of 250,000 people in the region, with Indonesia especially hard hit, also decimated major suspected coastal pirate havens. The United States supplied substantial maritime security infrastructure, including coastal radar, communications systems, and patrol boats and training, as part of section 1206 of the National Defense Authorization Act program called “Global Train and Equip.” In 2009, some 30 states that regularly use the Strait of Malacca, including Japan and China, and the three littoral states, formed a Cooperative Mechanism under Article 43 of UNCLOS to enhance maritime safety and environmental protection along the waterway—further building out the network of cooperation and coastal security infrastructure.

Just as these events contributed to a major decline in Southeast Asian piracy, the incidence of piracy off the coast of Somalia soared. The International Maritime Bureau reports that in 2006, there were 20 incidents of piracy in the Somali Basin and Gulf of Aden; that figure jumped to 44 in 2007, 111 in 2008, and 194 in 2009 and 192 in 2010. During this period, the international community responded by establishing three major counter-piracy naval task forces in the region—one operating on behalf of the European Union, another sent by NATO, and the third reporting to the commander of the U.S. Fifth Fleet in Bahrain. Despite coordinated patrols by warships from two-dozen countries, Somali piracy persisted, spreading from the Somali Basin and the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea and Arabian Sea, and virtually to the shores of India. The international commercial shipping industry implemented a series of Best Management Practices (BMP) against piracy, such as running concertina wire along the lifelines of the ship, to deter pirates from boarding. Yet Somali piracy kept coming: nothing seemed to work. In 2011, there were 237 pirate attacks in the Red Sea, Somali Basin, and Gulf of Aden. Then, in 2012, the number of attacks in these areas plummeted to 75. In 2013, remarkably, there were only 13 incidents—and Somali pirates did not successfully seize a single ship, although two vessels were held for less than a day before they were freed by naval action.

Where the adoption of BMP and naval patrols failed to stem the tide of Somali piracy, armed security guards posted on board ships transiting the High Risk Area of the Indian Ocean were effective. Ship owners initially were reluctant to embark armed security teams to protect their ships in the region, but the statistics were too compelling to ignore. Somali pirates have not been able to board any ship with an embarked armed security team. The introduction of private maritime security contractors onto ships, however, has raised a host of legal and policy issues. Generally, the carriage and use of firearms on board ships is governed by the laws of the flag state in accord with Articles 92 and 94 of UNCLOS. Some nations, however, purport to forbid the transit of ships with firearms while in innocent passage in the territorial sea under Article 19 of UNCLOS. Furthermore, coastal states and flag states may have different rules for the permissive use of force against suspected pirates. Consequently, the Member States of the International Maritime Organization have developed guidance for ship operators and ship owners, as well as recommendations for states, concerning the use of private security at sea.

Globally, by the end of 2013, maritime piracy had reached its lowest level in six years. Just as Somali piracy has waned, the locus of piracy once again may be shifting. One of the areas of greatest concern is the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of West Africa, which had, by 2012, surpassed Somali piracy in the number of vessel attacks. There were only 12 incidents of Nigerian piracy in 2006. In 2007, there were 42, and 40 in 2008, 28 in 2009, and 19 attacks in 2010. In 2012, there were 27 attacks by Nigerian pirates, and in 2013, Nigerian pirates accounted for 31 out of a total of 51 attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, taking 49 people hostage and kidnapping 36. Two ships were hijacked off the coast of Nigeria, and another 13 ships were boarded and 13 fired upon. The pirates operate from estuarine mangrove swamps in the Niger Delta, and use speedboats to attack targets along the coast or in the Gulf of Guinea, venturing as far as the waters off Gabon, Ivory Coast and Togo, where they were linked with at least five of the region’s seven reported vessel hijackings.

Oil is the lifeblood of Nigeria, which has long suffered from the large-scale theft of oil from pipelines or ships to sell to vessels offshore. The proceeds sometimes are used to fund armaments for disaffected insurgents, such as the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force and the closely connected Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta. Like Somali piracy, Nigerian piracy flows from unstable socio-political order and an absence of the rule of law that in its most venal form borders on anarchy. The two models, however, are very different. Nigerian pirates are particularly violent, whereas Somali pirates have tended not to be. While Somali piracy generally occurs beyond the territorial sea, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea usually occurs in territorial waters—often targeted at the oil terminals, tankers, and terminal services ships and Western expatriate workers that service them.

The dichotomy of piracy in Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, and the Gulf of Guinea underscores that even in the contemporary era, piracy continues to be part of the marine environment. Each region affected by piracy has its own original impetus for emergence of offshore crime, and local law enforcement capabilities and legal order shape the response of governments. A lack of effective governance and the rule of law provide fertile conditions for maritime piracy, which is fundamentally organized crime at sea.

7th April 2014

Piracy Capable of Crippling Economy, Says NIMASA

To attain economic growth and development of the nation’s maritime sector, the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr. Ziakede Patrick Akpobolokemi, has reiterated the need to ensure safety on our waterways.

He argued that piracy activities are capable of robbing the nation the much needed economic growth and confidence from the international community if piracy is not checked.

Receiving the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Samuel Ilesanmi Alade on a courtesy visit to Maritime House, the corporate headquarters of NIMASA in Lagos recently, Akpobolokemi commended Nigerian Navy’s partnership with NIMASA in fighting piracy over the years.

Describing both institutions as partners in progress, he stressed the need for the two organizations to continue to work together for the benefit of Nigeria and Nigerians.

His words: “Piracy is capable of crippling the nation’s economy. Since shipping largely contributes to the growth of any economy, the economy cannot thrive where piracy activities are carried out. And as regulatory agency, NIMASA owe the international community the obligation to assure the safety of their vessels, crew and cargo in order to foster shipping trade between Nigeria and the rest of the world.”

Alade in his response assured NIMASA boss of a more mutually beneficial relationship with the Navy and that his command is committed to the task of ensuring safety on the nation’s coastal ways and making it attractive to potential investors.

“The Nigerian Navy will ensure that the partnership between it and NIMASA grows from strength to strength and will continue to work hard to ensure that the nation’s maritime sector is more attractive and business friendly to potential investors,” he said.

27th March 2014

Sea Robbery in Bayelsa

A passenger craft was attacked by armed robbers (often called ‘pirates’ locally, although legally this is not the case) in the Southern Ijaw region of Nigeria.

The incident took place on March 22nd at approximately 0700 LT, in position 04:46.2N-006:01E, when armed men in a speedboat attacked the passenger craft near Okpotuwari in Bayelsa State. The gunmen reportedly stole cash and personal belongings from the victims and although the report is confused, the robbers either took or disabled the passenger vessel, leaving its occupants stranded. The passengers then swam to a nearby jetty and the authorities were contacted.

18th March 2014

Kidnapping Resurgent in Gulf of Guinea Piracy

The first ten weeks of 2014 have witnessed the resurgence of maritime kidnap-for-ransom off the coast of Nigeria’s Niger Delta.

This distinct form of piracy does not receive the same international attention as does thehijacking and robbery of multi-million dollar tanker cargos, but it poses an omnipresent threat to greater number of mariners.

Although the vast majority of incidents go officially unreported, Nigerian pirates have attacked at least a dozen vessels and kidnapped about 20 seafarers so far this year. In the first week of March alone, pirates boarded three supply vessels, reportedly seizing nine hostages.

Maritime kidnap for ransom is a crime deeply rooted and geographically concentrated in the Niger Delta. Like other forms of piracy in the region, it is the product of onshore dysfunction and insecurity coupled with a target-rich environment at sea.


Delta pirates primarily target vessels plying the country’s petroleum industry. After boarding and ransacking a vessel, the pirates will kidnap the most valuable crewmembers (most commonly Western or Asian captains, officers, and chief engineers) and then return to their mangrove-swamp camps to conduct ransom negotiations.

This type of crime is by no means new to the country and reached its peak during the Niger Delta insurgency at the end of the past decade. Militant groups, often operating under the umbrella title of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), kidnapped expatriate workers both to fund their operations and to force concessions from the Nigerian government and foreign oil companies.

A 2009 government amnesty, in which militants were bought off with security contracts, education bursaries, and cash stipends, resulted in a brief decline in oil sector kidnappings, but the crime has now returned with vengeance.

Although there were no kidnappings off Nigeria reported to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) in 2011, the number of kidnapped mariners jumped to 26 in 2012 and then to 36 last year. Kidnap for ransom is also increasing relative to other types of piracy (such as petty robbery and tanker product theft), notes Major Bryan Abell, with 60 percent of pirate boardings off Nigeria in 2013 resulting in abductions—up from 53 percent and 28 percent in 2012 and 2011, respectively.

Tactics and Trends

Delta pirates display an impressive level of maritime domain awareness. Anecdotal reports and tactical analysis suggest that they monitor the routes their target vessels travel between oil fields, terminals, and ports, making note of both schedules and observable security measures. The pirates are also known to access the vessel information provided to onshore agents. Knowledge of crew composition and nationality is particularly important for assessing the value of potential hostages.

The kidnapping of two American officers from the supply vessel C-Retriever, for example, may have been a pre-informed attack. On Oct. 17, 2013, the ship’s American owners received a letter threatening kidnappings if more local workers were not hired. Six days later, pirates attacked the vessel just after it left the security perimeter of the Agbami oil field.

Offshore support vessels—with their slow speeds, low freeboards, and predictable routes—are the pirates’ favorite mark, but tankers, bulk carriers, tugs and cargo ships are also targeted, albeit with lower rates of success.

Delta pirates typically operate in groups of 4-10 and use one or more high-speed skiffs to close on their prey. Once the element of surprise has been lost, the attackers will fire on the target vessel and attempt to board using ladders and hooked ropes.

Most kidnappings occur between 12 and 50 nautical miles off the eastern coast of the Niger Delta. The waters off Bayelsa state are the most dangerous, but 2013-2014 also witnessed the spread of these attacks eastward towards Akwa Ibom state and the maritime borders of Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea.

The pirates’ range has increased over the past two years, with several outlier attacks occurring up to 150 nautical miles offshore. The use of hijacked “motherships”—typically supply vessels and fishing trawlers—has enabled this expansion and demonstrates a heightened level of organizational planning.

Many analysts have cited a Jan. 3, 2014, kidnapping of three mariners from the cargo ship San Miguel off the mainland coast of Equatorial Guinea as an indicator that Delta pirates are now expanding deep into the waters of neighboring states. There is reason to doubt this assertion, however, as local police reports and security sources claim that the incident was more akin to mutiny than piracy, with members of the crew allegedly colluding with their ‘attackers’ to steal cargo and ransom the ship’s officers.

About the Money

Pirates receive protection and support from onshore networks in their communities, allowing them to conduct ransom negotiations (typically lasting under a month) with rare interruption from security forces.

Shipping and oil companies are known to discretely pay ransoms of between $50,000 to $100,000 per head. The largest reported ransom was the $2 million allegedly paid in November 2013 for the release of the two Americans seized from C-Retriever; a sum suspected of prompting further attacks.

The increase and expansion of kidnap for ransom piracy is likely the result of a cost-benefit analysis, in which kidnapping represents a quick and lucrative income, with little risk of punishment, for groups of young delta men with many grievances and few options.

Getting Down to the Roots

The Niger Delta accounts for the vast majority of the country’s $50 billion annual oil revenues, yet over half its population lives in poverty with a youth unemployment rate of 40 percent. The government amnesty has resulted in a fracturing of militant groups such as MEND, but has not addressed the underlying conditions that drove the insurgency.

As Major Abell examines, Niger Delta states with higher levels of development, security, and militant reintegration, such as Delta state, have fewer pirate attacks occurring in their waters than Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom where underdevelopment and militant grievances are rife. Many ex-militants, particularly in Bayelsa, claim to have been shortchanged or excluded from the amnesty program and have launched retaliatory attacks on security forces and oil facilities over the last two years.

The concurrent increase in piracy is likely a response to these same grievances, as ex-militants dissatisfied with the amnesty program seek out an alternative revenue stream. While kidnapping and oil theft were once part of a larger resistance movement, criminal gangs have now reduced them to means of economic survival and advancement.

Annual Outlook

Kidnappings off the Niger Delta are cyclical phenomena that respond to a number of economic, political, and security factors ashore. The wave of attacks in early March can thus be seen as both a temporary spike and as an indicator of a high persistent threat level.

Nigerian and regional authorities have helped curtail tanker hijackings by implementing safe-zones around vulnerable anchorages, but little has been done to suppress kidnap-for-ransom attacks off the Niger Delta.

The high-risk area where these attacks are now occurring, extending over 30,000 square miles, is simply too large to effectively patrol. The expansive maze of rivers, creeks, and jungle camps from which the kidnap gangs operate offers the criminals a similar geographical advantage.

Vessel hardening, crew vigilance and the use of citadel safe rooms have prevented a number of would-be kidnappings, but these measures are neither fail-safe nor collectively implemented. Offshore supply vessels, particularly those owned by Nigerian subcontractors, will remain the least secured and thus most vulnerable targets.

The waters off Bayelsa state will continue to be the most dangerous, but the southwestward expansion of attacks toward the borders of Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea is expected to continue. Rare outlier attacks up to 200 nautical miles offshore may persist, but the majority of incidents will likely fall in the 12-50 nautical mile “sweet spot” where targets are abundant and enforcement is thin.

Managed Militancy

Despite some self-aggrandizing claims to the contrary, the resurgence of a MEND-style insurgency is unlikely in the coming year. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, himself from Bayelsa state, has earned (or bought) the loyalty of many ex-militants and diminished claims that the Niger Delta is marginalized by the capital. Former militant leaders have been co-opted with security contracts, imprisoned, or killed by Nigerian security forces.

A February 2015 general election looms large over the Delta, however. Jonathan retains a power base in the region, but has been challenged by the defection of Rivers state Governor Rotimi Amaechi to the opposition party. One of the debated issues is whether the government should contain to pay some $500 million a year to sustain the amnesty program.

The political co-option of criminal groups is an established form of “politics by other means” in the run-up to Nigerian elections and may translate to a spike in kidnappings and other forms of littoral crime. The greater danger, however, is that the election of a non-Delta president and the cessation of the amnesty program will quickly dissolve the Niger Delta’s uneasy peace.

17th March 2014

Gunmen attack Agip tugboats in Bayelsa and kidnap two captains

Gunmen operating in Nembe waterways, Bayelsa State, have attacked two gunboats belonging to the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) abducting two captains.

The gunmen suspected to be pirates were said to have accosted the tugboat at about 1pm on Wednesday.

“The incident occurred at Peter Town in Nembe. The tugboats were on transit to Port Harcourt when the bandits double-crossed them, robbed them and whisked the captains away”, a security source who pleaded for anonymity said.

The source added: “The unknown gunmen shot sporadically into the air, creating panic in the area before whisking the two captains away to unknown creeks. The victims must have been abducted for ransom.”

The attacked boats were identified as MV EBIZAR and MV SOMKE.

The names of the abducted captains were given as Mr. T. Monday and Mr. E. messiah.

While Monday was said to be the captain of for MV EBIZAR and Mr. Messiah was reportedly in charge of MV SOMKE when the bandits struck.

When contacted, the Media Coordinator, Joint Task Force, Operation Pulo Shield, Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, said he had yet to be briefed on the incident.

12th March 2014

IMB Warns of West Africa Piracy Threat

The ICC International Maritime Bureau is asking ships to be extra vigilant when transiting West Africa as piracy in the region becomes a growing concern.
Since the beginning of the year, one vessel, MT Kerala, has been hijacked and six were boarded in West Africa. There was also one attempted attack.
The hijacking of the Liberian-flag product tanker in January by Nigerian pirates has sparked fears these gangs are venturing further south. In that incident, the pirates hijacked the MT Kerala off the coast of Luanda in Angolan waters. The vessel was released by the pirates 8 days later after the cargo was illegally transferred in a ship-to-ship operation along the West African coast.

According to a recent report by the United Nations titled Maritime Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea a lot of the piracy that affects West Africa is a product of the criminal activity associated with the region’s oil sector.

“A large share of the recent piracy attacks targeted vessels carrying  petroleum products. These vessels are attacked because there is a  booming black market for fuel in West Africa. Without this ready market,  there would be little point in attacking these vessels,” the report  said.
The IMB has warned in its annual piracy report of the dangers to ships transiting West African waters particularly around Nigeria, Benin and Togo, and urge continued vigilance as the threat remains real, as highlighted by the MT Kerala hijacking.
It further points to the fact that because pirates have never attacked so far south, it is likely that vessels in the area are not aware of the danger.   The IMB is warning ships to be extra cautious and to take necessary precautionary measures when transiting West African waters. It urges ship owners and managers who lose contact with their vessels to report it to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre as soon as possible, so that investigations can be carried out and if appropriate suitable warnings issued to other vessels in the same area to reduce the risk of hijacks.

7th March 2014

Captain and crew snatched off Nigeria

Three crew members have been kidnapped from a platform supply vessel (PSV) off Nigeria in the latest sign of insecurity off the major West African oil producer.

Armed bandits attacked the Nigerian-owned vessel Prince Joseph 1 on Tuesday before making off with the three seafarers, its owner confirmed to Upstream.

Those taken include the captain, chief engineer and a Panamanian superintendent.

The Nigeria-flagged vessel was set upon at around 1:30am local time 14 miles off Akwa Ibom state. There were no casualties or injuries as a result of the assault, but wheelhouse windows were damaged.

The 3240-deadweight-tonne PSV – a 2012 build – continued to Onne port with the rest of the crew.

Nigerian owner Awaritse Nigeria has not had any communication with the abducted crew or their kidnappers.

The assault came on the same day armed pirates in two boats fired on a bulk carrier 60 miles west-south-west of Brass, Nigeria, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB)’s Piracy Reporting Centre.

The vessel increased speed and took evasive manoeuvres before the gunmen aborted the attack. The vessel sustained bullet damage to the accommodation tower.

In late January, armed bandits seized two crew members from an Eni-connected tug off Nigeria’s Bayelsa state.

The attack on the Agip tug came on the same weekend a tanker that was hijacked off Angola was released off Nigeria.

The IMB said in a report in mid-January that Nigerian piracy increased last year to their highest level since 2008 with incidents off West Africa now accounting for almost one fifth of the worldwide total.

Sea criminals linked with Nigeria proved “particularly violent” in 2013 and have moved their operations further offshore and to neighbouring countries, it said.

In total there were 264 attacks on ships worldwide last year, a 40% drop from 2011 when Somalia piracy was at its peak and 237 attacks occurred in that region alone.

Some 300 people were taken hostage last year with 12 ships hijacked, 202 boarded and 22 fired upon, while there were a further 28 attempted hijackings.

West Africa accounted for 19% of all attacks in 2013, with Nigerian pirates said to be responsible for 31 out of 51 attacks in the region, holding 49 people hostage and kidnapping 36.

7th March 2014

Three Crew Reportedly Kidnapped Off Nigeria

The Mdpl Asha Deep, a Nigeria-flagged tugboat, was attacked and boarded in the Agbami Field while en route to Onne, Rivers State.

The report states that gunmen abducted three expat crew, although there are no further details at this time. This is the second report of crew abduction this week. On Tuesday March 4th, the Nigerian-owned Prince Joseph 1 was attacked and boarded by gunmen at 0130 local time around 14 miles off Akwa Ibom state. The gunmen kidnapped three crewmen before escaping.

6th March 2014

Nigeria Tops World in Dangerous High Sea Piracy

On January 29th, 2014, PSV Cee Jay liner was attacked by pirates and boarded off the coast of Bayelsa State. The Pirates kidnapped the Master and Chief Engineer and robbed the crew. The next day, the Tug Lamnalco Hawk was attacked and boarded by 3 pirates in Pennington Terminal area of the same Bayelsa State.

2014 is continuing a harrowing trend that has won Nigeria a top position in the global high sea piracy charts. As Nigeria achieves greater ‘successes’ in events of boat capture and robbery, global levels have recorded appreciated drops. The total events of piracy according to the International Maritime Bureau were 264 in 2014 compared to 297 in 2012 and 439 in 2011. But events off West Africa’s coast are increasing.

Of the 51 events in the Gulf of Guinea, Nigeria had 31 last year, overtaking Somalia on the east of the continent, which had only 15 episodes of Piracy that same year. Reports have it that Nigerian pirates are even involved in cases far out from its bay, across Togo, Gabon and all the way up to Ivory Coast, making the registered total Nigerian events lower than actual.

Though Indonesia had the greatest total number of events, these were low level opportunistic thefts. Africa’s shores recorded the most dangerous high level incidents of piracy globally, with Nigeria topping the list.

Nigeria’s Joint Task Force, JTF is reported to have increased efforts to stem the increases in these terror events off Nigeria’s shores; however a lack of proper redress for criminals and a culture of impunity for successful thieves, makes the impact of its effort to combat this new vocation of the nation’s Southern states questionable.

An extensive report on oil theft in the Niger Delta in October last year by the Stakeholder Democracy Network, SDN, indicted the very JTF and maritime police in aiding and abetting these criminal activities; actually levying taxes and receiving payments to protect and oversee the activities of the hoodlums.

An amnesty program which invested billions of naira in countries overseas in rehabilitating and training Niger Delta MEND militants has not recorded appreciable success because after the training received, many youth cannot secure meaningful employment as the environment simply does not have options and investing in job creation is not a priority of this government. A ‘rehabilitated’ ex-militant terrorist told his friend to come join him in the kidnapping business, convincing him that it was seriously lucrative.

Critics of the amnesty project have stated that as the project which was initiated by late president Umaru Yar’Adua progressed, more money should have been invested locally in constructing the training schools and accommodation facilities, so as to keep the money within the economy and build long lasting infrastructure and opportunity for employment.

Rehabilitated terrorists are now actively engaged in either high sea piracy, oil bunkering or kidnapping of affluent locals and visitors. Even the nation’s President’s adopted father was recently kidnapped in their village by these confident terrorists, and a ransom of N500 million was allegedly demanded… which may likely be paid, as is typical, thus cementing this new found vocation.

A problem Nigeria is credited with that discourages global business and investment, especially in its fourth republic and under the current administration is tolerance of crime of the wealthy. Once a kidnapper or pirate acquires an appreciable wealth status, he gains complete impunity and he and his gang are freed by the government regardless of their crimes. In contrast, petty thieves remain imprisoned, sometimes for years without trial.

It has been noted that in the case of northeastern terrorism, terror suspects who have been found guilty of mass murders are sentenced to life imprisonment, whereas armed robbers are given the death sentence. This sympathy for terrorists and their affluent sponsors by the government is a challenge to serious efforts at combating high caliber crime.

High profile pirates, MEND or Boko Haram terrorists are only caught and incarcerated abroad, in South Africa, Togo, and Cameroon. And even in these cases the Nigerian government battles to secure their release or transfer to Nigerian custody, only to pardon and free them as soon as they get home.

As the Jonathan administration grapples with these serious security crises in the north, south, middle belt and off its coast, the notably weak government is getting increasingly overwhelmed and without adjusting its posture to one of strength and forging and supporting alliances with communities to participate in security of the nation, things are projected to get worse. The first recorded hijacking of an oil vessel was in December 2010 and it involved the MT Velle di Cordoba, since then pirates have hijacked oil tankers serially, making anywhere between $5-10 million a month from hijacked tankers. The increasing dangers of coastal villains are also taking a toll on the land and sea and not only vessels and their crew. Oil spillage is having an irreversible deadly impact on Nigeria’s coasts. Shell claims that 80% of Nigeria’s oil spills are due to the activities of thieves and saboteurs.

The Civilian JTF was a local effort in Nigeria’s northeast which arose out of necessity and has done much toward quelling Boko Haram crises, most especially in the state capital city; however the government has not shown much commitment and done much toward patronizing and assisting these critically needed civilian efforts. Surprisingly, the administration was eager to give a lucrative amnesty to Boko Haram terrorists, going as far as negotiating with some in jails, but has not yet decided to similarly award and assist the brave civilian youth who combat them. If Civilian JTF type efforts are duplicated in other prone areas and there is a commitment by the government to protect and honestly sponsor and support these efforts, it may help in decreasing the rate of high caliber terror Nigeria is gaining a global reputation for, while reducing the burden on the nation’s security services. This however is sadly not anticipated as this will cost money and the government officials are noted to love keeping the entire nation’s money for themselves.

As the center gets increasingly overwhelmed and fails to hold, many clamor for greater regional autonomy, including state police to be responsible for the security in their regions. This may also be worth seriously considering and will stave off blaming and relying on Abuja for all problems of insecurity.

5th March 2014

West African piracy should be nipped in the bud

Ideally, events such as this one should not be necessary” said MEP Anna Rosbach, host of a maritime piracy photography exhibition organized in the European Parliament by ECSA and the Danish Shipowners’ Association. The exhibition will be on display this whole week in the European Parliament, where the ECSA Piracy Taskforce will also have a meeting to discuss growing piracy hot spots.

Ms Rosbach (ECR, Denmark) deplored the fact that piracy continues to pose a threat to innocent seafarers, the shipping industry and by extension global trade and she hoped that events such as this one would contribute to raise awareness among the general public and decision makers.

While successful hijackings off the coast of Somalia have considerably decreased in the last few years, the root causes of Somali piracy have not yet been tackled. The international community and shipowners have managed to keep the pirates at bay at great costs, both human and economic. Ships transiting the high risk area are today less vulnerable, mainly due to passive (sharp lookout, barbed wire surrounding the ships, faster sailing speeds etc…) as well as active self-defense measures (deployment of national armed forces or private armed guards on board). A resurgence of piracy in the Horn of Africa is however far from improbable, so continued international military presence and the implementation of protective measures are still of the upmost importance.

The rapidly emerging piracy model in West Africa is also extremely worrying. According to the International maritime Bureau, in 2013, 53 incidents took place while in the first 45 days of 2014, 10 incidents have already been reported. However, numbers are likely to be higher as many attacks still remain unreported.

“Piracy in West Africa needs to be addressed effectively now before it escalates. Whilst we cannot simply apply the solutions successfully used off the coast of Somalia, we believe that there is a clear role for the EU and the international community. The situation in West Africa affects not only seafarers and shipowners but also jeopardizes efficient trade with the entire region” said Jan Fritz Hansen, Chairman of the ECSA Piracy Taskforce.

Patrick Verhoeven, ECSA Secretary General added: “I do hope that this exhibition will help raise awareness on the thorny issue of piracy and prompt decision makers to maintain a credible military presence off the coast of Somalia while also scaling up their efforts in West Africa.”

5th March 2014

Nigeria Tops in Dangerous High Sea Piracy

Reports from IMB indicate that the total number of piracy reported were 264 in 2013 compared to 297 in 2012 and 439 in 2011. Events off West Africa’s coast are however increasing. Nigeria reportedly had 31 out of the 51 events recorded in the GoG overtaking Somalia, which had only 15 recorded episodes of Piracy in 2013. Reports have it that Nigerian pirates are even involved in cases far out from its bay, across Togo, Gabon and all the way up to Ivory Coast, making the registered total Nigerian events lower than actual. The JTF is reported to have increased efforts to stem the increases in these terror events off Nigeria’s shores; however a lack of proper redress for criminals and a culture of impunity for successful thieves, makes the impact of its effort to combat this new vocation of the nation’s Southern states questionable.



9th February 2014

Indian Hostages Freed in Rescue Operation

Associated Press reports that the hostages seized during the hijacking of the Spanish-owned MV San Miguel off Equatorial Guinea on January 3rd have been freed.

The ship, owned by the Martinez Brothers, was carrying 150 tonnes of cargo and a crew of nine when it left Malabo on January 2nd. The following day, pirates approached the ship in a small boat. The Captain believed they were in distress and allowed them to board. At that point, the pirates hijacked the ship using automatic weapons. They robbed the crew and directed the Captain to look for other potential targets in the area. When none was found, they instructed the Captain to steam to Nigerian waters. Once there, the pirates kidnapped the Captain, a welder and an engineer and escaped. The incident was not confirmed by Spanish navy authorities until January 18th.

The three hostages, all Indian nationals, were apparently freed following an operation mounted by the Nigerian military with no ransom being paid. AP additionally reported that five kidnappers were arrested during the operation.

The released hostages have been handed over to the Indian representatives in Equatorial Guinea.

The kidnapping of senior crew is fast becoming a hallmark of piracy in the region. On October 23rd, the American Captain and Chief Engineer of the US-flagged C-Retriever were kidnapped by gunmen. They were freed in early November, amid rumours that a ransom had been paid to secure their release.

More recently, on January 10th, a local passenger craft was attacked and boarded by armed robbers near the town of Ekeowe, Bayelsa State, Nigeria. During the robbery, two passengers were reportedly killed and two senior staff from the Nigerian Agip Oil Company kidnapped.

On January 26th, a tug travelling from Port Harcourt to Brass was attacked and boarded by seven pirates who kidnapped the Captain and Chief Engineer. Similarly, on January 31st, an offshore support vessel was reported to have been attacked and boarded by pirates who also kidnapped the Captain and Chief Engineer. Unfortunately, neither of these reports has been officially confirmed by authorities in the region but, if true, they represent a worrying trend for crew transiting the Gulf of Guinea.

31st January 2014

Pirates attack Oil Tugboat In Bayelsa; 2 Abducted

Seven pirates attacked a Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) tugboat today in the firm’s oil fields in Bayelsa State, abducting the captain and engineer.

The tugboat, with six crew members, was coming from Port Harcourt to Brass to load crude at the terminal.  The four others on board had their valuables taken.

The attack comes at a time of rising insecurity in the Niger Delta region.

A security officer not authorized to speak for company said, “Nobody knows their whereabouts.”

But he added the incident happened at Peter’s town in Nembe Local Government area, Bayelsa.

In a related story, another gang of pirates attacked a passenger boat on Sunday afternoon.

The pirates took passengers’ valuables and to immobilize the boat removed its engine.

The passengers were returning to Akassa after attending a church service in Twon Brass, Brass Local Government Area of the state.

One source told SaharaReporters, “the waterways of the Bayelsa have remained volatile. It is no longer safe for people to travel. The security operatives especially the Navy and the Joint Task Force, Operation Pulo Shield seem clueless. They don’t know what to do.”

Saharareporters contacted the Navy and the Joint Task Force.  JTF media coordinator, Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, said he had yet to be briefed on the incident.

31st January 2014

MEND – We Attacked, Abducted Agip Personnel

After what looked like an interlude, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which had been the arrow head of the agitation and violence in the Niger Delta, Monday announced that it was the mastermind of the weekend attack on the tugboat belonging to Agip Nigerian Oil Company (NOAC) and the abduction of two personnel on the waterways of Nembe in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. Similar claims by the group in the past have always been dismissed as hoax by the Joint Task Force (JTF), Operation Polo Shield.

This is more so as the weekend’s attack was reportedly carried out by suspected pirates. The MEND statement, which was signed by it spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, reads: “The MEND confirms that the attack on a Joint Task Force (JTF) patrol boat on Saturday, January 25, 2014, in the Nembe-Bassanbiri waterways, Bayelsa State was carried out by our fighters. “This relatively insignificant attack is a reminder of our presence in the creeks of the Niger Delta and a sign of things to come. Contrary to speculations, they were not ‘sea pirates’, but a new group of MEND trainee fighters. “Our silence thus far, has been strategic and at the right time, we will reduce Nigerian oil production to zero by 2015 and drive off our land, all thieving oil companies.

“In this new phase of our struggle for justice, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) will pay considerable attention to dealing with the occupying Nigerian government forces in the Niger Delta that stand in our way.” Following the attack on their vessel by heavily armed gunmen, the abducted workers of Agip were taken to an unknown destination. Their whereabouts is still unknown, even as security operatives intensified efforts at locating them. The tugboat had six crew members at the time it was attacked by the assailants. While four were dispossessed of their valuables, the captain and the engineer were whisked away and have been held possibly for ransom.

26th January 2014

Sonangol Confirms Tanker Still Missing Off Angola

Angolan state oil firm Sonangol on Friday confirmed reports that a tanker it had chartered had disappeared off the coast of the West African country.

The owners of the Liberian-flagged MT Kerala, Greece-based Dynacom, said on Wednesday it suspected that the tanker had been hijacked by pirates. If confirmed, the attack would be the most southerly to date by pirates off West Africa.

Sonangol said it lost contact with the tanker, with crew of 27, on Jan. 19.

“The relevant authorities and the conventional technical mechanisms have already been activated to locate the ship and identify the causes of the occurrence,” it said.

Pirate attacks jumped by a third last year off the coast of West Africa but were mostly confined to the Gulf of Guinea, near Africa’s biggest oil producer Nigeria, where most of the hijacking gangs are believed to originate.

A hijacking off Angola would be hundreds of miles further down the coast. Previously the most southerly reported attack was on a tanker off Gabon last year.

International navies are not actively engaged in counter-piracy missions in the region, unlike in the waters off Somalia, the piracy hotspot on the other side of the continent.

Angola is Africa’s second biggest crude oil exporter after Nigeria, where pirate attacks have pushed up insurance costs for shipping firms and oil companies.

23rd January 2014

Pirates suspected to have attacked tanker off Angola

A fuel tanker is suspected to have been hijacked by pirates off the coast of Angola, the ship’s owners said on Wednesday, in what would be the most southerly attack to date by pirates off West Africa.

Pirate attacks jumped by a third last year off the coast of West Africa but were mostly confined to the Gulf of Guinea, around Africa’s biggest oil producer Nigeria, where most of the hijacking gangs are believed to originate.

The 75,000 deadweight tonne Liberian-flagged fuel tanker MT Kerala lost contact with its Greece-based owner Dynacom on January 18. The ship was last seen around seven nautical miles from the Angolan capital Luanda, according to a security source.

“It is suspected that pirates have taken control of the vessel,” Dynacom said in a statement, adding it had no confirmation.

If true, it would be hundreds of miles (kms) further down the coast than the previously most southerly reported attack, when pirates hijacked a tanker off Gabon last year. They were suspected of siphoning oil from the vessel.

One security source said the MT Kerala was loaded with gasoil. Tankers seized by Nigerian gangs are often released after the oil, gasoline or other fuel on board is transferred to smaller vessels. Sometimes crew are kidnapped for ransom.

International navies are not actively engaged in counter-piracy missions in the region, unlike in the waters off Somalia, the piracy hotspot on the other side of the continent.

Angola is Africa’s second biggest crude oil exporter after Nigeria, where pirate attacks have pushed up insurance costs for shipping firms and foreign oil companies. Angola is a major exporter to China.

“If substantiated, this latest incident demonstrates a significant extension of the reach of criminal groups and represents a threat to shipping in areas that were thought to be safe,” said Ian Millen, director of intelligence at Dryad Maritime.

Millen said a suspicious tug boat entered northern Angolan waters last week and was tracked moving north from Angola towards Nigeria after the suspected attack, which could point to an extension of the reach of Nigerian gangs.