Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea
Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea affects a number of countries in West Africa as well as the international community. By 2011, it had become an issue of global concern. Pirates in the Gulf of Guinea are often part of heavily-armed criminal enterprises, who employ violent methods to steal oil cargo. In 2012, the International Maritime Bureau, Oceans Beyond Piracy and the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Program reported that the number of vessels attacks by West African pirates had reached a world high, with 966 seafarers attacked during the year. According to Control Risks, pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea had by mid-November 2013 maintained a steady level of around 100 attempted hijackings in the year, a close second behind Southeast Asia.
Scope of the problem
Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea has evolved over the first decade of the century. For some time, smaller ships shuttling employees and materials belonging to the oil companies with any involvement in oil exploration had been at risk in Nigeria. Over time, pirates became more aggressive and better armed.
As of 2014, pirate attacks in West Africa mainly occur in territorial waters, terminals and harbours rather than in the high seas. This incident pattern has hindered intervention by international naval forces. Pirates in the region operate a well-funded criminal industry, which includes established supply networks. They are often part of heavily-armed and sophisticated criminal enterprises, who increasingly use motherships to launch their attacks. The local pirates' overall aim is to steal oil cargo. As such, they do not attach much importance to holding crew members and non-oil cargo and vessels for ransom. Additionally, pirates in the Gulf of Guinea are especially noted for their violent modus operandi, which frequently involves the kidnapping, torture and shooting of crewmen. The increasingly violent methods used by these groups is believed to be part of a conscious "business model" adopted by them, in which violence and intimidation plays a major role.
By 2010, 45 and by 2011 64 incidents were reported to the UN International Maritime Organization. However, many events go unreported. Piracy acts interfere with the legitimate trading interests of the affected countries that include Benin, Togo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. As an example, trade of Benin's major port, the Port of Cotonou, was reported in 2012 to have dropped by 70 percent. The cost of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea due to stolen goods, security, and insurance has been estimated to be about $2 billion. By mid-November 2013, pirates in the Gulf of Guinea had launched around 100 attacks during the year.
The international community has expressed concern over the increasing number of reports of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre reported that the range of the attacks is extending and the level of violence against the crews is “dangerously high”.
In November 2011 Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon assembled a team to examine the situation. As a result a recommendation was made to convene a regional summit as to form a united front by the affected West African countries. It was recognized that the area needs a comprehensive maritime security framework across national boundaries to fight piracy. further, technical and logistical help is needed from the international community.
On 19 November 2012, the United Nations Security Council held an open meeting to discuss piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, among other areas. The debate, which was the first held by the Security Council about this subject, was called by Indian Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri and heard more than 40 speakers from different countries and international organizations. Several speakers noticed that while acts of piracy in the Indian Ocean were declining due to coordinated naval operations, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea was intensifying. They suggested applying lessons learned there to the Gulf of Guinea, "including a focus on modernizing counter-piracy laws, strengthening capacities for maritime law enforcement and crime investigation, supporting regional networks and increasing knowledge sharing."
According to a joint report by the International Maritime Bureau, Oceans Beyond Piracy and the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Program, the number of vessel attacks off the coast of West Africa had by 2012 surpassed those in the Indian Ocean, where piracy was by contrast sharply on the decline. West African pirates attacked 966 seafarers during the year, holding hostages for a shorter period of four days on average. However, captives in West Africa were at a much greater risk of violence, with five hostages reportedly killed there in 2012 compared with no fatalities elsewhere. Pirate incidents off the coast of Indonesia similarly rose from 2011's total of 46 to 51.
Locations of attacks
Among the locations in Nigeria that have been subject to attacks by pirates are:
Attacks per year
Chronology of selected attacks
- Jan. 4, 2009: Pirates hijacked the French ship Bourbon Leda with five Nigerians, two Ghanaians, one Cameroonian and one Indonesian on board. It was freed Jan. 7.
- Jan. 21: Gunmen attack the diesel tanker MT Meredith and kidnap a Romanian, who is released a day later.
- Jan. 23: Rebels steal some items from the Exxon tanker MV Ngoni. They also seized a tugboat.
- April 21: Rebels attacked the Turkish ship Ilena Mercan and kidnapped two crewmen.
- November 24: Pirates hijacked the Liberian-flagged Cancale Star off Benin and killed a Ukrainian officer before robbing the ship.
- December 1: The Ghanaian Navy intercepted the hijacked oil tanker African Prince a week after it had been taken. The pirates escaped; they had killed the ship's chef.
- March 13, 2010: A Chinese fishing vessel was hijacked off the Bakassi Peninsula, Cameroon. Seven fishermen were abducted. The kidnappers demanded a ransom and later released the vessel and its passengers on March 18.
- September 23: Three Frenchmen were kidnapped from a vessel belonging to the company Bourbon off the Nigerian coast.
- August 3, 2011: Two Panamanian-flagged tankers were attacked off Benin's coast but the ships were not taken. In the previous week, an Italian diesel tanker and a Swedish tanker were also attacked off Benin.
- August 19, 2012: A British-owned oil tanker was hijacked in the Port of Togo. Authorities suggest that the same group hijacked a Greek-owned oil tanker in this region.
- August 28, 2012: A Greek-owned oil tanker was hijacked in the Port of Togo on Tuesday. Authorities suggest that the pirates will siphon off the gas oil from these types of vessel hijackings in this region.
- September 4, 2012: A Singaporean-flagged oil tanker, the MT Abu Dhabi Star, was hijacked off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria. They broke glass windows to access a bridge into the 183m (600-ft) long vessel. The pirates fled as soon as they realized a Nigerian naval ship was approaching. It is suspected that although the pirates fled, they may have attempted to siphon off the gas from the ship.
- October 15, 2012: A Luxembourgish-flagged anchor handling vessel named AHT Bourbon Liberty 249, was hijacked while off the coast of Nigeria.
- December 23, 2012: an Italian-registered ship was hijacked by seven Nigerian pirates, off the coast of the state of Bayelsa. Pirates successively released the ship with most of the crew, but took three Italians and a Ukrainian as hostages, who were freed a couple of weeks later.
- January 16, 2013: A Panamanian-flagged vessel, ITRI (owned by the Ivory Coast company, Koda Maritime), was hijacked while transferring 5,000 tons of oil near Abidjan.
- February 3, 2013: A Luxembourg-flagged oil tanker, Gascogne (owned by France) was hijacked approximately 70 nautical miles south of the port city of Abidjan.
- February 4, 2013: A Marshall Islands-flagged chemical tanker, Pyxis Delta (owned by the UAE), was hijacked off the coast of Nigeria. A Filipino crew-member was killed during the hijacking.
- February 11, 2013: A UK-flagged cargo ship, Ester C, (owned by the Isle of Wight-based Carisbrooke Shipping) was hijacked by pirates between the Cameroonian port of Douala and the port of Malabo in Equatorial Guinea.
- April 16, 2013: A Greek-flagged crude oil carrier, Cap Theodora, was attacked by pirates 36 nautical miles off the coast of Principe Island, Gulf of Guinea. The ship thwarted the attack by increasing its speed and performing evasive maneuvers.
- April 25, 2013: A Liberian-flagged container ship, Hansa Marburg, (owned by Hamburg-based shipping firm Leonhardt and Blumberg) was hijacked 130 nautical miles off the coast of Equatorial Guinea, with four crew members on board.
- May 25, 2013: The Nigerian-flagged oil products tanker, MT Matrix, was hijacked approximately 40 nautical miles off the Bayelsa State of Nigeria.
- Scott Baldauf (2012-02-28). "Next pirate hot spot: the Gulf of Guinea". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2012-02-29.
- Associated Press (2012-02-27). "UN says piracy off Africa’s west coast is increasing, becoming more violent". Retrieved 2012-02-29.
- "Insight: Piracy - Gulf of Guinea". Skuld. Retrieved 14 January 2014.
- Cowell, Alan (18 June 2013). "West African Piracy Exceeds Somali Attacks, Report Says". New York Times. Retrieved 19 October 2013.
- "RiskMap 2014 Report". Control Risks Group. Retrieved 14 January 2014.
- "Maritime industry worried overrising Nigerian pirate attacks". Business Line. 24 April 2012.
- Republique Togolese (2011-02-29). "Gulf of Guinea needs regional anti-piracy strategy". Retrieved 2011-02-29.
- Alaric Nightingale, Michelle Wiese Bockmann (22 October 2012). "Somalia Piracy Falls to Six-Year Low as Guards Defend Ships". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
- "Delegations in Security Council Note Progress in Combating Piracy, but Warn ‘Pirates Will Quickly Be Back in Their Skiffs’ if Attention Diverted Deputy Secretary-General Briefs, Statement Condemns Violent Nature of Crime, Urges Action to Deter, Disrupt Attacks". Security Council SC/10820. United Nations. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
- "Weekly Piracy Report 9–15 October 2007". Summary of Piracy Reporting Centre report. International Maritime Bureau. Archived from the original on 2007-10-11. Retrieved 2007-10-17.
- "Sea piracy hits record high". CNN.com (Time Warner). 2004-01-28. Retrieved 2007-10-17.
- "Piracy report says Nigerian waters the most deadly". IRIN (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs). 2004-04-24. Retrieved 2007-10-17.
- Pirates kill seaman in W.Africa tanker attack
- Nigeria: Ghana Returns Oil Tanker After Pirate Attack
- FACTBOX - Attacks in the Gulf of Guinea
- Three French crewmen kidnapped in Nigeria attack
- Pirates attack two oil tankers off W. Africa
- Swedish tanker attacked by pirates near Benin
- "Pirates hijack tanker with 24 Russian crew off Togo". BBC News. 2012-08-28. Retrieved 2012-12-03.
- "Surviving the pirates off the coast of Nigeria". BBC UK News. news.bbc.co.uk. 12 September 2012. Retrieved 24 December 2012.
- "MT Abu Dhabi Star, Arab Oil Tanker, Hijacked By Pirates Off Coast Of Nigeria". The Huffington Post. huffingtonpost.com. 5 September 2012. Retrieved 24 December 2012.
- "Liberation of the 7 crew members abducted in Nigeria on October 15, 2012". Bourbon-online.com. 2012-11-01. Retrieved 2012-12-03.
- "BOURBON LIBERTY 249 Details". Marinetraffic.com. 2012-01-01. Retrieved 2012-12-03.
- "Nigeria searches for pirates who seized 4 people". Euronews. 24 December 2012. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
- "Nigeria, pirati assaltano nave e sequestrano quattro marinai: tre sono di nazionalità italiana". TGCom24 (in Italian). 24 December 2012. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
- "Italy: 4 sailors kidnapped off Nigeria freed". CBS Atlanta. AP. 9 January 2013. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
- "Ivory Coast: ITRI oil tanker seized off Abidjan". BBC News UK. 2013-01-21. Retrieved 2013-02-18.
- "French Vessel With 17 Crew Members Hijacked By Pirates: International Maritime Agency". International Business Times. 2013-02-04. Retrieved 2013-02-18.
- "Filipino seafarer killed in hijacking of tanker 'Pyxis Delta' off Nigeria—DFA". SeaFarer Times. 2013-02-06. Retrieved 2013-02-18.
- "Pirates attack British cargo ship in Gulf of Guinea". BBC News UK. 2013-02-11. Retrieved 2013-02-18.
- "Bulk Freight and Container Shipping Interests see Piracy and Cargo Theft in West Africa Spiral". handshippingguide.com. 2013-04-25. Retrieved 2013-05-17.
- Mark Trevelyan (2013-04-25). "Pirates kidnap four off Equatorial Guinea". Reuters.com. Retrieved 2013-05-17.
- Mark Heinrich (2013-05-28). "Pirates kidnap crew off Nigerian coast: security sources". Reuters.com. Retrieved 2013-05-29.
- International Chamber of Commerce Commercial Crime Services: reports and statistics
- West Africa's Gulf of Guinea Robber Pirates - Flags of Convenience
- FACTBOX - Attacks in the Gulf of Guinea
- Pirates take new territory: West African Gulf of Guinea