Published On: Thu, Aug 9th, 2018

35 sailors kidnapped for ransom as piracy returns to Gulf of Guinea

Petro-piracy in the West African Gulf of Guinea is on the rise although it is unlikely to reach the levels witnessed at the height of the crisis between 2011 and 2013, a leading global security risk analyst group has warned.

In its latest regional analysis of piracy in the first half of 2018, the British-based EOS Risk Group said 35 seafarers were kidnapped for ransom between January and June. Of these, 24 were attacked in Nigerian waters, 7 in Benin, two in Ghana and one in Cameroon.

There were 3 unsuccessful pirate attacks on merchant vessels while 3 others vessels were held for ransom. There was one successful oil bunkering incident off the coast of Nigeria in the same period.

The ports of Conakry (Guinea), Cotonou (Benin), Takoradi (Ghana) and Lagos in Nigeria were most affected by maritime crimes in the first half of 2018.  In at least 3 cases, shipping companies allegedly paid ransoms sum to secure the release of hijacked vessels.

Apart from the attraction of its profits, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea will continue because of instability in the Niger Delta, endemic regional corruption, the opaque nature of its emerging oil industries and poor regional maritime security policing.

“The unpredictable nature of ‘hijack-for-oil’ theft operations also makes the issue difficult to police. Unfortunately, tankers stationed at major anchorages throughout the Gulf of Guinea are likely to face an underlying risk of this type of crime for the foreseeable future.

“Predicting exactly where and when petro-pirates will strike next is a fool’s game, but history does hold some clues as to where attacks are more likely to occur. Kidnapping for ransom, due to its favourable risk versus reward ratio and the relative ease with which it can be conducted, is expected to continue to be Nigerian pirates primary modus operandi,” wrote Jake Longworth, Senior Intelligence Analyst at EOS Risk Group.

To mitigate the heightened risk of vessel and crew kidnappings, shipping companies operating in, or transiting through the Gulf of Guinea are advised to hire armed escorts.

Author: Oscar Nkala

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