West Africa: the surge in piracy continues. Are you prepared?

West Africa is becoming well known as the new hot spot for piracy. Unlike Somalian hijackings where a ship and crew can be held for up to twelve months or beyond for ransom, West African pirates pose an elevated threat as they are well trained and equipped, highly motivated and can take a ship within minutes. They engage in a ship-to-ship transfer of the cargo to a waiting vessel, and the targeted cargo is usually petrochemical. The hijacking operations can bring in extremely high financial returns, at great loss and expense to the ship owner and operator. The operations are well organised and the cargo can be pre-sold and transferred within a 48 hour window.

The crew are usually subject to extreme acts of violence, including mock executions and severe physical abuse. In some cases, kidnap for ransom of crew members has taken place for further revenue.

It is worth noting that without expat armed security teams, local government forces in certain West African regions can be contracted to provide armed escorts with a PMSC liaison officer. It is imperative to seek the right provider in managing and delivering this type of armed protection in a complex culture and environment.

Further attention should be paid to vessel vulnerability pertaining to correct Best Management Practice (BMP) implementation and self-protection measures. A well trained crew in anti-piracy measures has been proven to mitigate and in some cases prevent the capture of crew by means of the citadel with swift emergency procedures.

Ship owners and operators should be proactive in their operations to mitigate the rising threat to their crew and vessel by seeking the correct service provider with a deep understanding of this domain and the ability to deliver legal and compliant operations within the boundaries of national law. Be prepared, for anything.

The following recent incidents reflect the seriousness of the escalating situation in West Africa.

  1. NIGERIA: On 05 March a tanker was boarded at 06:27 N – 003:23 E, in the vicinity of Lagos. An LPG Tanker was boarded and robbed by pirates. No further details at this time.
  2. NIGERIA: On 04 March the tug/ supply vessel ARMADA TUAH 22 was hijacked at 03:42 N – 005:39 E, approximately 50 nm southwest of Brass. Contact with the vessel's owner has been lost and the vessel has not been responding to radio calls. In addition, the vessel’s AIS was turned off at around 1715hrs local time. Unconfirmed reports state that the Captain, Chief Engineer and Second Engineer have been kidnapped. The chef was also reported to have been injured in the attack on the vessel.
  3. NIGERIA: On 02 March a fishing trawler was attacked at 04:07 N – 005:36 E, approximately 25 nm from the Bayelsa Coast. Unconfirmed reports state that the Captain was killed during the attack. The pirates managed to escape, prior to the arrival of the Nigerian Naval Patrol.
  4. NIGERIA: On 25 February a passenger boat was boarded and personnel kidnapped at 04:37 N – 008:22 E, in the Ibaka Channel, Calabar River. Passenger boat was attacked and boarded by approximately 20 armed pirates in 2 speedboats. The pirates boarded the vessel and reported to have kidnapped 1 person. The vessel continued to port.
  5. NIGERIA: On 22 February the cargo ship KOTA BAHAGIA was fired upon and endured multiple attempted boardings at 03:51 N – 005:57 E, approximately 30 nm south-southwest of Brass. Approximately 6 pirates armed with automatic rifles in a skiff launched from a mother vessel chased and fired upon a general cargo ship underway. Master raised the alarm, activated anti-piracy preventive measures, increased speed, took evasive manoeuvres, and non-essential crew took shelter in the citadel. The pirates attempted to board the ship several times and then aborted the attempt due to the hardening measures taken by the ship. Incident reported to MRCC Nigeria. No injuries to crew but the ship sustained some damage due to the firing.
  6. NIGERIA: On 17 February the tug ARMADA TUAH 101 was boarded and personnel kidnapped at 03:57 N – 005:20 E, approximately 40 nm west-southwest of Brass. An offshore tug was attacked and boarded by pirates. They boarded the vessel and kidnapped 6 officers to include the Master, Chief Officer, Second Officer, Chief Engineer, Second Engineer, and ETO. The 6 crew members are comprised of a Russian national, 2 Indians and 3 Ukrainians. The remaining 12 crew members were unharmed and there was no damage to the vessel. Remaining crew and the vessel were escorted back to Port Harcourt.
  7. NIGERIA: On 17 February the bulk carrier AFRICAN JOY was boarded at 06:27 N – 003:23 E, at Berth No.2, Apapa, Lagos. Robbers in a wooden boat approached a berthed bulk carrier. One robber boarded the ship, broke into the forward store, and stole ship's stores, including 4 drums of paint. Duty crew noticed the robber and raised the alarm. The robber escaped with the stolen stores.
Posted: 9 April 2013 by Optimal Risk Administrator | with 0 comments