West Africa piracy increases

LAGOS — Piracy off the coast of West Africa has now overtaken Somali piracy, a report by the International Maritime Bureau and other seafarers’ groups says.

It says 966 sailors were attacked in West Africa in 2012, compared with 851 off the Somali coast.

West African pirates mostly steal fuel cargo and the crews’ possessions, often resorting to extreme violence.

Five of the 206 hostages seized last year off West Africa have been killed, the document says.

The report, titled The Human Cost of Maritime Piracy 2012, was released by the International Maritime Bureau, the Oceans Beyond Piracy project and the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme.

It says that despite the growing number of pirate attacks in West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea region “the area has not received the attention that was brought to Somalia”.

Pirates typically target fuel cargo, selling it on the lucrative black market.

“In Nigeria, money moves quite quickly, unlike in Somalia,” one seafarer is quoted as saying in the document.

“In Somalia, it would take months. In Nigeria, the pirates take our (oil) cargo and the money of the (shipping) company. It would take only weeks, it is quite fast.”

The highest risk area for pirate activity in West Africa is off the coast of Nigeria, by far the biggest country, and oil producer, in the region.

Because successive governments there have failed to develop sufficient domestic oil refining capacity, Nigerian waters are full of tankers exporting crude oil and importing refined petroleum that are vulnerable to attack.

Corruption and, until recently, armed rebellion in the oil producing areas, have led to the development of an entire, well-organised industry for stealing — or “bunkering”, as it is known in Nigeria — oil products, he says. (BBC)

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