Piracy Profile by Port – West Africa

Lagos/Port Harcourt, Nigeria

• On 30 July, the Hong Kong-flagged underway-chemical tanker HIGH JUPITER was fired upon at 03:31 N – 006:05 E, approximately 45 nm south of Brass. A gunboat claiming to be a Nigerian navy boat called a chemical tanker on VHF and asked details of vessel, cargo, last and next ports. This information was passed to the gun boat. After approximately 15 minutes, the gun boat approached the vessel at high speed and demanded that the vessel be stopped and boarding permitted. The Master informed them that he would not be stopping due to the areas high risk for piracy attacks. The gun boat threatened them and followed the vessel for 20 minutes and then fired two shots in the air. The Master immediately raised the alarm over VHF and requested ships in the vicinity relay its message to port control, which was not responding to its calls. Upon hearing the VHF alarm, the gun boat moved away.
• Piracy incidents are often violent and there have been numerous incidents of crew members being injured and some killed.
• Pirate gangs have attacked and hijacked vessels/kidnapped crews along the coast, rivers, anchorages, ports and surrounding waters.
• Attacks have been reported as far as 120 nautical miles from the coast.
• Some pirate incidents have been reported to have gone on for several days while the pirates ransack vessels, stealing cargo and gas oil.
• The majority of pirate incidents in Nigerian waters have occurred to the south west of Port Harcourt and in the vicinity of Lagos Port.
• Financial considerations rather than political or ideological ones predominantly motivate piracy and kidnapping off the Gulf of Guinea, and foreign hostages are normally taken to induce ransom payments. Piracy within the region is increasing, with Nigerian waters (Niger Delta) recording the most number of incidents of any country in the Gulf of Guinea. This trend shows no signs of lessening.
• The regional scope of the threat should prompt Nigeria to seek further international co‐operation and joint naval patrols with neighbouring countries.

Cotonou, Benin

• Quantity of attacks in the area has decreased significantly due to the increase in security patrols, although the threat persists.
• Pirates in the area are assessed to be well armed and capable of utilizing violence in order to achieve their objectives judging by previous incidents where crewmembers have been injured.
• Past attacks have included incidents of pirates/robbers firing at ships.
• Pirates in the past have forced the ship’s crew to sail to unknown location where the ship’s cargo has been stolen (gas oil).
• Recent patrols by Benin and Nigerian Authorities resulted in a drop in the number of attacks. However, vessels are advised to continue to be vigilant and maintain strict anti‐piracy watches and measures.

Lome, Togo

• On 16 July, the Marshall Islands-flagged underway product tanker OCEAN CENTURION was hijacked at 05:29 N – 001:38 E, approximately 46 nm southeast of Lome. Armed pirates in two speed boats approached, boarded, and hijacked the product tanker. They took hostage all crew members, stole their personal belongings, ordered the Master to sail south, and then north towards the Togo/Benin border. The pirates then disembarked and escaped via a speedboat, 12nm from the coastline. The Togo Navy was informed about the hijacking and a patrol boat was dispatched, which escorted the tanker to Lome anchorage for investigation. Two crew members were injured during the incident and were transferred to a clinic for medical attention.
• Attacks are increasing and the Port of Lome has the second highest levels of piracy in the region, after Port Harcourt.
• Pirates in the area are well armed, violent and dangerous.
• Attacks usually occur at night and some have resulted in the vessel being hijacked for several days, while the cargo is stolen.

Abidjan, Ivory Coast

• On 31 July, the Cayman Islands-flagged anchored bulk carrier ATHOS was boarded at 05:13 N – 004:03 W, at the Abidjan Anchorage. Robbers boarded the ship at anchor using a long pole with a hook. The crew spotted them and raised the alarm.
• Hijacking incidents have occurred with pirates sailing a tanker to Nigeria to off load part cargo and stealing crew’s valuables indicated.
• Again due to the increased security patrolling in the more traditional pirate prone areas, the threat has spread to other less well protected areas, such as the Ivory Coast
• Pirates may also target vessels at neighboring Ghana.
• Most likely area for a pirate attack is in the waters surrounding Abidjan.

Douala, Cameroon

• Piracy is usually conducted in the surrounding waters of Cameroon, as oppose to the ports, rivers and anchorages. Historically though there have been attacks conducted at Cameroon’s largest port, Douala, therefore vigilance needs to be maintained throughout the area.
• Pirate attacks usually consist of robbery and kidnap (typically of Eastern Europeans).
• Piracy in Cameroon’s coastal waters is currently abating, however, if it re‐intensifies it will have a negative impact for the Economic Community of Central African States’ (ECCAS) largest economy.

Accra, Ghana

• Ghanaian coastal waters remain relatively free of piracy, even though the Gulf of Guinea is witnessing an upturn in incidents.
• Any piracy attack will likely occur near to the Ghanaian coast, particularly in the vicinity of Accra, Cape Coast and Takoradi.
• Ghana’s burgeoning offshore extractive industries are increasingly likely to be the target of pirate attacks, as has been seen elsewhere in the region. The oil rich region of Takoradi is particularly at risk.

Gabon

• On 15 July, approximately 12 to 15 gunmen armed with AK-47 assault rifles hijacked the anchored Malta-flagged tanker COTTON and its 23 crewmembers approximately 13 nm off Gentil Port.

Outlook – West Africa

Although regional naval coordination is being increased, there are no short‐term solutions to stopping piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, especially as the rewards can be so lucrative. In the short‐term, operators are mostly on their own, with limited support from the international and regional forces. Secure A Ship is helping the military forces and its shipping clients with solutions to help prevent piracy but it will take time for adequate security forces to be developed. An effective resilience plan must be in place which includes training, physical security measures, emergency planning that Secure A Ship is currently completing by using the same security guards and continuous training and understanding of RUF & Standing Operating Procedures to West Africa forces who work in conjunction with us. Until the regional nations curb corruption and more money is spent on social factors such as education, health and employment piracy and armed robbery is unlikely to be curbed anytime soon.
West Africa will remain the rising problem area. Nigeria hasn’t contained the major insurgent group Boko Haram operating in the north of the country and the security focus will stay there for a long time to come. This means maritime security must be of the highest priority. The hijack near Gabon may indicate the rising capacity of the pirates to conduct their operations to longer distances than before. Also, there are signs that they are about to adopt the similar model as Somali pirates have had – besides stealing the cargo they will likely demand the ransom for the vessel and crew on top. Arranging for experienced armed security in the area seems the only option, which will keep your vessel and crew safe as the case studies indicate.

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