Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Nigerian Pirates Are The New Scourges Of The Sea


Somalia—once a hotbed of piratical unrest—is quickly losing its title to Nigeria. This year more than three times as many pirate attacks have occurred in the Gulf of Guinea, off West Africa, as in the waters around Somalia on the eastern coast. A new report (pdf) published today by the International Maritime Burea, Oceans Beyond Oceans, and Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme shows that piracy is on the rise in waters off the coasts of Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Cote d’Ivoire—generally with Nigerian attackers—and the attacks often prove more violent. Of 120 attacks reported so far in 2013, 22 were Nigeria-related incidents while only 7 were Somalia-related incidents.

That’s a rapid pivot from last year, when, as we’ve previously reported, pirate attacks off East Africa, despite having fallen sharply, were still more common than off West Africa.

Seafarers are particularly vulnerable in West Africa because they’re often stalled, either at sea or or in port. According to the IMB, port security guards aren’t reliable because they know that their weapons don’t match up to those of would-be pirates or robbers. Pirates are often ex-members of militant groups, and are well-armed. And while international security forces like the US navy, the EU, and NATO have built up presences in Somali thoroughfares, authorities in the Gulf of Guinea are notoriously unreliable, and occasionally are even thieves themselves.

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