Armed attacks off Nigeria nearly doubled in 2016

Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP), a project of One Earth Future Foundation, has said that piracy attacks off West Africa, mainly close to Nigeria, nearly doubled in 2016 compared with the year before. In a report published this week, OBP noted that pirates were increasingly focusing on kidnapping crew for ransom. In the 95 attacks in the Gulf of Guinea in 2016, compared with 54 in 2015, 96 crew members were taken hostage, up from 44 the previous year. There were 18 kidnapping incidents, up from 13 in 2015. Maisie Pigeon, one of the report’s authors, said that the “kidnap for ransom” model offered greater potential financial gain with less risk than hi-jacking cargo for ransom, or just stealing it. “Pirates are becoming more violent and aggressive and often initiate attacks by firing at the bridge to intimidate the crew prior to boarding”, OBP said. The cost of contracted maritime security services in this sector was $346m. OBP said that the pattern attacks off Nigeria appeared to be linked with militant attacks against the oil and gas infrastructure in the Niger Delta.

Meanwhile, OBP said that counter-piracy measures off the Horn of Africa since 2011 had been effective, but were expensive — $726m in contracted maritime security services and $228m in international naval activities last year. This, the organization said, meant that with the decline in Somali piracy navies had been deployed elsewhere and shipping companies had cut back on private security. OBP said that there had a been a 12.5% decline in the number of vessels using armed guards in 2016. There were 27 reported incidents in 2016, but no vessels were successfully hijacked.

The major surge in incidents was in the Sulu and Celebes Seas, where Abu Sayyaf emerged from virtually nowhere in 2015. There were 21 incidents of kidnapping and three incidents of hijacking for cargo (down from 12 incidents in 2015) reported in 2016.