Tag Archives: Nigeria piracy

West Africa – maritime bureau calls for action by states over priacy

allAfrica

West Africa: Shipping Industry Calls for Joint Action on Piracy

West Africa’s coastal states need to step up co-ordination to beat the growing incidence of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, says an international maritime organisation.

“Unlike Somalia, there is no failed state in the Gulf of Guinea,” says the International Maritime Bureau (IMB). “All the states are functioning entities. These states need to be determined and take action to wipe out piracy.”

The bureau is quoted in a new report issued by an insurance company which says that although piracy is on the way to being eradicated off Somalia, the Gulf of Guinea is “an emerging piracy hotspot.”

The “Safety and Shipping Review 2014″, published by Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS), reports that nearly one in five attacks on the world’s ships last year were carried out in the Gulf of Guinea.

“The… region accounted for 48 of the 264 incidents in 2013,” the review says. “Of these Nigerian pirates and armed robbers were responsible for 31 incidents, including two hijackings, 13 vessels boarded and 13 vessels fired upon. One crew member was killed and 36 kidnapped – the highest number of Nigerian kidnappings for five years…”

The review says the challenge in the region is different to that off Somalia, quoting Allianz’s global head of marine risk consulting, Tim Donney, as saying West African pirates operated in a different way.

“In Somalia , the model is to capture the ship and hold the crew for ransom,” he said. “While in the Gulf of Guinea, the model seems to be kidnapping crew members off the ship and holding them for ransom and, in some cases, rebel groups simply attack and try to destroy a ship, particularly oil tankers who are seen as ‘stealing’ the nation’s wealth.”

He said naval patrols off Somalia, combined with armed security officers on board merchant shipping, had cut piracy. “But in the Gulf of Guinea, only the Nigerian navy can provide security services, which is proving to be ineffective.”

The review notes that the heads of 22 West African states signed a code of conduct in 2013 dealing with preventing piracy, armed robberies and other “illicit maritime activity”.

It goes on to quote the IMB: “To tackle piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, we need better co-ordination and sharing of information between coastal states.”

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Nigerians rescue Indian crew held by pirates

Mail and Guardian

Nigerian police rescue Indian crew kidnapped by pirates

Police have rescued three sailors taken from a cargo ship off the coast of Equatorial Guinea – a rare success story in Nigeria’s fight against piracy.

Armed Nigerian navy boats patrol the coast off Bayelsa state in an attempt to stop pirate attacks, which jumped by a third off the coast of West Africa in 2013. (Reuters)
Armed Nigerian navy boats patrol the coast off Bayelsa state in an attempt to stop pirate attacks, which jumped by a third off the coast of West Africa in 2013. (Reuters)

Nigerian police have rescued three Indian sailors who were kidnapped from a cargo ship off the coast of Equatorial Guinea last month.

Pirates attacked the Equatorial Guinea-owned MV San Miguel on January 3 and kidnapped the three crew members, the Nigerian state security services (SSS) said on Saturday.

“On 30 January 2014, this service in collaboration with the military rescued three Indians … No ransom was paid for their release,” the SSS said.

Most acts of piracy in West Africa are carried out by Nigerian gangs who usually steal the cargo, which is often fuel, and rob or kidnap crew members.  Nigeria is Africa’s largest crude oil exporter as well as a major fuel importer, making it a busy and poorly secured shipping lane.

Hostages are usually transferred to hideouts in the crime-ridden creeks of the Niger Delta before being released once a ransom is paid, according to security experts.

Pirate attacks jumped by a third off the coast of West Africa last year, pushing up insurance costs for shipping firms operating in the key commodities export hub.

There are signs that the capacity of hijackers is growing after pirates attacked an oil tanker off the coast of Angola and sailed it to the Nigerian coast last month, in what was the most southerly attack on record. – Reuters  M&G

West Africa leaders meet to tackle growing piracy

Chatham House/allAfrica
Chatham House (London)
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West Africa: Tackling Insecurity in West Africa’s Waters
BY ADJOA ANYIMADU, 21 JUNE 2013

For the first time, piracy now affects more seafarers in West African waters than off Somalia’s coast, according to figures from the International Maritime Bureau released this week.

The statistics show that the number of incidents of piracy and other maritime crimes has increased in West Africa, but the amount of pirate activity in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden has fallen dramatically. This suggests that the concerted and wide-ranging international efforts to counter Somali piracy have been a success – between May 2012 and May 2013, UN officials noted that there were no hijackings in the Indian Ocean at all.

The rise in West African maritime insecurity primarily affects the Gulf of Guinea: a coastal zone stretching from Senegal to Angola that provides an economic lifeline to coastal and land-locked West African countries, and is of strategic importance to the rest of the world. Safe passage to ports in the region and security within its waters are vital. Firstly for global energy production, as Nigeria and Angola are amongst the world’s top ten crude oil exporters; secondly, West Africa’s fishing industry provides millions of dollars in revenue for European and Asian fishing fleets; and thirdly, for the prevention of the trafficking of narcotics, people and weapons into West African states and Europe.

On the 24 June, 25 state leaders from Central and West Africa will meet in Yaoundé, Cameroon, where it is anticipated that they will sign agreements to encourage cooperation in combating maritime crime, which costs the region over $2 billion annually. International action on the issue was spurred when Benin’s president made a speech at the UN in 2011 calling for assistance in combating maritime crime and drug-trafficking which had contributed to a 70% decrease in the number of ships entering the port of Benin’s economic capital, Cotonou. In response to the UN Security Council’s passing of Resolution 2039 in February 2012, which urged West African countries to counter piracy on regional and national levels, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Gulf of Guinea Commission (CGG) have ensured that maritime security features heavily on the agenda of the Yaoundé summit.

High risk areas

In the Gulf of Guinea, maritime threats are manifest in a variety of ways. Kidnapping of crews is rarer in West Africa, as criminals at sea tend to use extreme violence to extract valuables, equipment or cargo from a vessel and its crew. Tankers carrying oil or other chemical products are hijacked, and their cargos are siphoned off for resale by criminals. West Africa is also one of the world’s main locations for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Almost 40% of the fish caught in West African waters is taken illegally, costing the region’s governments up to $1.5 billion annually and damaging the marine environment. Trafficking, particularly of drugs, undermines democracy and state institutions. Guinea-Bissau is a stark example of this. By some estimates, the value of drug flows through the country rivals its official economy.
However, the majority of states in the Gulf of Guinea enjoy relative political and economic stability, functioning state institutions and strong rule of law. This offers some hope that if maritime security is prioritized on a national and regional level, criminality could be contained. Political will to reduce corruption and effective law enforcement would go some way to limit the time and space maritime criminals need to increase their scope of operation, as seen in the Indian Ocean. In Somalia, state collapse in 1991 and the subsequent lack of sufficient governance has meant that there has been no up-to-date legislation criminalizing piracy in its modern form, no effective coastguard presence and no Exclusive Economic Zone protecting the fishing rights of Somali citizens.

This contrasts with a number of West African countries that have fairly strong naval traditions. Ghana, Benin, Nigeria and Angola for example, have engaged in naval partnerships and training exercises with the American, British and Brazilian navies, among others. If sustained and geared at the right level, such international efforts could help boost the local naval and coastguard capacity to monitor waters and to apprehend those suspected of committing maritime crime.

‘Sea-blindness’

However, while the regional bodies of ECOWAS and ECCAS have highlighted the detrimental effect of maritime insecurity, West African governments still suffer from ‘sea-blindness’. They have not prioritized the national action necessary to combat this insecurity. International policymakers must also recognize the impact of insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea on their own interests, and the culpability of international elements in some aspects of this. For example, fish illegally caught in West Africa is often destined for EU and Asian markets, and there are links between vessels involved in IUU fishing and other forms of organized crime at sea – including drug-smuggling.

The EU could lead international efforts through its soon-to-be announced Strategic Framework for the Gulf of Guinea. This document has the potential to galvanize West African countries, EU member states and other international actors to adopt the comprehensive approach needed to tackle the interconnected types of maritime crime in West Africa. But action and attention on the issue must be sustained. One of the chief lessons from efforts to combat Somali piracy is that early action by policymakers, regionally and further afield, could do much to ensure that criminality does not evolve and increase to an unmanageable extent.

Adjoa Anyimadu is a research associate in Chatham House’s Africa Programme.

The lessons for the Gulf of Guinea which could be drawn from successful international efforts to combat Somali piracy will be highlighted in a forthcoming Chatham House paper, Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea: Lessons Learned from the Indian Ocean.

Project on African Maritime Security

http://allafrica.com/stories/201306261394.html?page=2

French tanker off Ivory Coast may have been hijacked by Nigerian pirates

Reuters

A French-owned Luxembourg-flagged tanker with 17 crew members that went missing off Ivory Coast at the weekend is believed to have been hijacked by Nigerian pirates, the International Maritime Bureau said on Monday.

The IMB, a division of the International Chamber Of Commerce charged with fighting maritime crime, issued a security alert for West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea following a spate of violent attacks on vessels in recent days.

The Gulf of Guinea is second only to the waters around Somalia for piracy. The hijacking, if confirmed, would be the second vessel seizure off Ivory Coast in less than three weeks.

“The owner lost contact on (February) 3rd. We believe it was hijacked with 17 crew on board,” said Noel Choong, head of the IMB’s piracy reports division based in Malaysia.

“The situation in the Gulf of Guinea is quite bad right now. There have been three attacks there in the past five days,” he said, adding that the other incidents had occurred off the coast of Nigeria.

Luxembourg’s government said in a statement released on Monday that the vessel, named the Gascogne, is owned by French company SEA-Tankers.

Neither authorities in Luxembourg nor the IMB released the nationalities of the ship’s crew members, but France‘s foreign ministry said none were French.

Port officials in Ivory Coast’s commercial capital Abidjan said they were still investigating the circumstances surrounding the Gascogne’s disappearance, but said the ship was not scheduled to dock in the country.

Many of the pirate gangs in the Gulf of Guinea are offshoots of militant groups that once operated in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta, and attacks in the waters off Nigeria, Togo and Benin have been commonplace for years.

Ivory Coast recorded its first vessel hijacking last October when suspected Nigerian pirates seized a Bahamas-flagged tanker carrying more than 32,000 metric tonnes of gasoline near Abidjan’s port. The 24 crew were later freed unharmed.

Gunmen attempted, but failed, to seize a ship anchored off Abidjan’s port in December, and last month pirates took control of a tanker carrying 5,000 tonnes of fuel as it waited to unload its cargo at Abidjan’s tanker terminal.

“It appears that the Nigerian pirates are spreading. All of these vessels were tankers carrying gas oil. They’re all taken back to Nigeria to siphon off the oil, then the crews are freed,” Choong said.

“This whole process takes about five or six days,” he said. reuters

Nigeria – number of dead in Yobe state church attack rises to at least 15

This Day/allAfrica

Bauchi — A shootout in North-eastern Nigeria between security forces and members of Boko Haram sect has left about 15 people dead including a local police chief, the Associated Press (AP) has said.

This came as gunmen attacked a supply tug boat in the Niger Delta, kidnapping four foreign sailors in the latest attack that is increasingly becoming dangerous for shippers and oil companies.

Also, an unknown gunman yesterday killed three persons and injured five others in Bigi village, a suburb in Bauchi in what was described as an unprovoked attack.

However, it was gathered that the shootings took place in the city of Potiskum, which has increasingly become the scene of violent attacks by the sect.

Army spokesman, Lt. Eli Lazarus, said the attack began late Sunday night in the city and went on for hours after suspected sect members bombed a local police station and attacked a bank branch.

Lazarus said the dead included a police chief and 14 suspected Boko Haram members. Civilians have been killed in such shoot-outs before and Nigeria’s military routinely downplays such casualties.

The identity of those who died could not be independently verified, though Lazarus said those killed had been carrying weapons and ammunition.

Lazarus said authorities only collected four corpses of the suspected sect fighters, as the other 10 “were dragged away by other Boko Haram members in order to hide their identity.”

It was unclear the motivation behind the attack, though analysts and local security officials believe Boko Haram has funded some of its attacks through bank robberies in which sect members blow open bank buildings to steal the money inside.

The kidnap of the four foreign sailors, according to Associated Press, happened 40 nautical miles off the coast of Bayelsa State in the Niger Delta on Sunday night, as the gunmen stormed the moving vessel, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said yesterday in a warning to other shippers.

The gunmen seized four workers and later fled, the bureau said.

It added that those remaining onboard safely guided the ship to a nearby harbor, the bureau said.

The bureau did not identify the shipper, nor the sailors.

However, a separate notice to private security contractors working in Nigeria and seen by AP identified the four hostages as foreigners.

In Rome, the Foreign Ministry confirmed the kidnapping, saying the four hostages were members of the crew.

A foreign Ministry official said three of the four were Italian.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to release the information publicly, said he didn’t know the nationality of the fourth hostage.

Foreign Minister, Giulio Terzi, was following the case personally, and the ministry was working with Nigerian officials to secure the safe return of the crew, the official said.

The official and the private security notice seen by the AP identified the vessel attacked as the Asso Ventuno, operated by Augusta Offshore SpA, a Naples-based shipping company.

The company’s website says itdoes business with oil companies Total SA and Exxon Mobil Corp. in Nigeria.

A spokesman for Nigeria Navy, Commodore Kabir Aliyu, declined to comment on the issue.

Pirate attacks are on the rise in West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, which follows the continent’s southward curve from Liberia to Gabon.

Over the last year and a half, piracy therehas escalated from low-level armed robberies to hijackings and cargo thefts.

Last year, London-based Lloyd’s Market Association – an umbrella group of insurers – listed Nigeria, neighbouring Benin and nearby waters in the same risk category as Somalia, where two decades of war and anarchy have allowed piracy to flourish.

Analysts believe many of the attackers come from Nigeria, whose lawless waters and often violent oil region routinely see foreigners kidnapped for ransom. Increasingly, criminal gangs also have targeted middle and upper-class Nigerians as well.  Read more…

 

 

West Africa – piracy in the Gulf of Guinea

IRIN

Defining piracy in the Gulf of Guinea

A tanker hijacked by pirates in Benin, 2011

LONDON, 10 December 2012 (IRIN) – In July last year President Boni Yayi of Benin sent a worried letter to the UN secretary-general. His country was being threatened by the activities of pirates, who were scaring shipping away from the ports on which his country’s revenues depend. He wanted international help of the kind which had been deployed against piracy off the coast of Somalia.
His letter put the issue of piracy off the West African coast onto the world agenda. The attacks continue and still cluster in the vicinity of Benin and its neighbour, Nigeria, but despite UN missions and a Security Council debate, the international community is still unsure of the best way to proceed.
On 6 December Coventry University organized a conference on Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea, in collaboration with London’s Chatham House. One thing which emerged very clearly from the sessions was that what is being called piracy in this area is very different from piracy off the East African coast, and the kind of international naval deployment used against Somali pirates is unlikely to help.
In fact Chris Trelawny, deputy director of the Maritime Safety Division at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), suggested that most of what was going on in West African waters was not really piracy at all, within the meaning of the international conventions. “Piracy is defined as happening `outside the jurisdiction of any state’, so outside 12 miles is piracy. If it’s inside 12 miles we classify that as armed robbery against ships. The difference is jurisdiction. Piracy is a universal crime and states have an obligation to intervene. Inside 12 miles it is the coastal state’s responsibility.”
Of the attacks which have been reported to IMO over the past 10 years, only a minority, 108, have happened in international waters: 170 were within territorial waters and 270 actually took place in port. So these are crimes taking place within national jurisdiction, and even though some of the coastal states of West Africa have states and judicial systems which are quite weak, there is no void of authority, like that in Somalia.
Few prosecutions
Using an international naval task force to address the problem is inappropriate in other ways too. Navies can be very good at deterring pirates, or chasing them and recovering stolen weapons and cargo, but they are not designed or trained to collect evidence and process criminals for prosecution.
One of the speakers at Chatham House was Tony Attah from Shell Nigeria, a company which has suffered severely from maritime crime, sometimes losing whole cargoes of crude oil to pirates. Nigeria has a joint military task force which is now mandated to tackle oil theft but Attah is frustrated by the results. “We are aware that over 1,000 illegal refineries have been destroyed through the efforts of the navy, and a number of tankers full of stolen crude have been seized in high profile raids, but despite the increased focus to date, we are not aware of a single thief being prosecuted or convicted. The big barons behind this criminality walk free.”
The oil industry, much of it offshore, is one of the main lures for maritime criminals in the area. And, says Attah, this is not petty crime. “I can tell you this is a well-financed criminal phenomenon, a parallel industry, with a well-developed supply chain and growing sophistication. It includes trained engineers who weld valves to high pressure pipelines, boatyards which construct and supply barges.”
Oil is also the reason why the issue is of wider international significance. The region supplies around 40 percent of Europe’s oil and 29 percent of that consumed by the USA. Keeping these shipping lanes open and safe is vital for world supply. The outside world is ready to offer some help – both the British Navy and the US Africa Command were represented at the meeting. Both have offered training and capacity building to West African navies and coast guards.
For these national forces to work together is clearly important because the criminals are so mobile. One speaker likened fighting piracy in the region to sitting on a balloon – push down on one side and it pops up at the other; push on the other side and it pops up somewhere else. Joint military patrols by the Nigerian and Beninois navies reduced attacks in their own waters, but moved the pirates’ attention to Togo and Côte d’Ivoire.
So far that has been the only joint action; apart from that, regional cooperation has mostly involved meetings and seminars, held by regional bodies.
Information gap
One of the major gaps is a lack of information, highlighted at the meeting by Lt-Cmdr Stephen Anderson of the UK’s Royal Navy whose ship, the Dauntless, recently returned from a patrol in the Gulf of Guinea, and who had clearly been very struck by the near impossibility of finding out which ships were meant to be there, and which were suspect vessels.
There is a sense at the moment that the region and its international allies are still feeling their way. Piracy off the west coast of Africa is not yet at the same level as that that off Somalia to the east, but there is a clear concern that it could escalate.
The deputy executive secretary of the Gulf of Guinea Commission, Ambassador Florentina Ukonga, addressed a heartfelt appeal to all those concerned. “With the right combination of efforts. to achieve a common legal framework for the arrest and prosecution of criminals, adequate financial investment and capacity building – piracy can be reduced to a bare minimum. irin

Pirates hijack tanker off Nigerian coast

BBC

Pirates have hijacked a Singapore-owned oil tanker off the coast of Nigeria.

A Nigerian navy spokesman told the BBC two ships and a helicopter are trying to rescue the Abu Dhabi Star.

Map

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) told the AFP news agency that 23 crew members were on board when the tanker was captured on Tuesday night.

The navy denied reports that the tanker was seized in Lagos port, saying it happened at sea and the vessel was now about 25km (15 miles) off the coast.

There has been a significant increase in the number of pirate attacks in parts of West Africa.

The BBC’s Will Ross in Lagos says instead of seeking a hefty ransom the armed gangs tend to steal the cargo before releasing the crew.

Noel Choong, head of the IMB’s Malaysia-based piracy reporting centre, said the crew members had locked themselves in a safe room.

“We are concerned about their safety and the spate of hijackings,” he told AFP.

But he said those behind the attack may be the same criminal syndicate that seized two tankers off Togo last month, siphoned off the oil and later released the crew and ships.

Last year, Nigeria and neighbouring Benin began joint naval patrols in an effort to combat the threat of pirates. Read more…