According to Bergen Risk Solutions, a spike in attacks in Nigerian waters in June highlights the fact that the problem of piracy and maritime crime is far from gone and is perhaps not declining. Unpredictable patterns of theft and hijacking expand the area of risk, says BergenJune 2012 saw six attacks against international shipping interests in the Nigerian maritime environment. Two attacks were recorded in May but no attacks were recorded in April.
Bergen Risk Solution chief executive Arild Nodland said the drop in attacks seen in April and May this year had a precedent.
“Piracy in Nigeria is a cyclical thing more than anything else,” Mr Nodland said. “Pirates in the region are adaptive and will find new ways of countering government security initiatives.
“Attacks on shipping and other marine units on the Bights of Benin and Bonny are harder to predict as they constantly shift in frequency and areas of manifestation. They occur at anchorages as well as far off shore.”
To cope with these patterns, the risk mitigation company has expanded its general risk area for the Gulf of Guinea to accommodate this unpredictability, now defining it as: “Togo’s ports and [exclusive economic zone] up to 50 nM from shore. Benin and Nigeria’s ports, waterways and EEZ, up to 150 miles from shore. Bakassi Peninsula, in Cameroon, up to 20 miles off shore.”
So far in 2012, 24 serious security incidents involving international shipping and marine interests have been recorded in Nigerian waters: four hijackings or kidnaps; 17 armed assaults or robberies and four attempts or suspicious approaches.
Last year there was a trend for attacks in Benin and this year Mr Nodland said Togo has also been targeted. However he added that the most serious trend is marine criminals reaching targets further and further offshore.
“This started in the latter part of last year and the use of staging platforms — motherships — has been confirmed on several occasions since the autumn of 2011. That makes piracy harder to grapple with,” Mr Nodland said.
Attacks in the Bight of Benin, off Togo, Benin and Lagos, are mostly on chemical or oil product tankers.
Mr Nodland said the attacks fall into two categories; local banditry in port and, more significantly, organised hijackings of ships aiming to steal cargoes of diesel or petrol — or to secure cash payments from the sale of such cargoes.
“A few years ago there were significant differences in the nature of maritime security incidents in Lagos and the Niger Delta, especially with regards to levels of violence involved,” Mr Nodland said.
“However, since late 2008 this distinction has become less significant as pirates operating off Lagos have become more and more brutal. The majority of attacks off Nigeria’s main port and also Cotonou regularly include the use of firearms and several sailors have been injured or killed in attacks.”
The Niger Delta’s many established militant and criminal gangs are well-equipped with firearms and fast, small craft, Mr Nodland said.
“Local communities also pressure the petroleum and shipping industries, sometimes by hiring armed gangs, in order to extort benefits for their own village. Grudge attacks, caused by personal feuds, envy or disputes over payments or contracts, also represent a significant risk factor,” he said.
This article was posted by Neptune Maritime Security via shiptalk.com. MaritimeSecurity.Asia in cooperation with www.neptunemaritimesecurity.com