Delegates at the 10th Chemical & Products Tanker Conference held in London on Tuesday and Wednesday this week have been told that Nigerians are responsible for most of the pirate attacks carried out on product tankers in West Africa, especially the Gulf of Guinea area.
Head of compliance at EOS Risk Group, David Fletcher, who stated this on Tuesday, said that there are two main groups of pirates terrorizing ships and seafarers in the Gulf of Guinea. These, according to him, are the Yenagoa group based in Bayelsa State and the Abonema group in River States.
“Most pirates are Nigerians, supported sometimes by others from West African nations such as Ghana. The groups are generally well organised but opportunistic and willing to act without intelligence,” he said.
Fletcher described the pirate groups as comprising “guns for hire” and handpicked operators with seagoing experience.
He said kidnap for ransom continues to be the main strategy among Nigerian pirates, with 93 seafarers kidnapped in 15 separate incidents involving 40 attacks in 2018, a 24% increase over the 2017 figures.
According to him, an average of four seafarers are kidnapped in every attack and are held by their captors for an average of 36 days.
The risk analyst also stated that the pirates have become more aggressive in their techniques, “even attacking ships with 16-metre freeboards and armed security personnel on board”, and have increased the ransoms they demand for the release of abducted seafarers.
He told the conference delegates that petro-piracy is re-emerging as a significant threat in West African waters, with the Gulf of Guinea at the epicenter.
Fletcher said that as petro-piracy has re-emerged as a threat since January 2018, ships carrying cargoes such as jet fuel, diesel, crude oil and marine gas oil are all at greater risk.
On the Indian Ocean, he said attacks have also resurfaced, even as root causes of such attacks remain unresolved.
“These attacks are not usually cargo-related but originate from a lack of security ashore in countries like Somalia, and resentment among coastal communities over poverty and foreign fishing boats,” he said.
Fletcher also said that risks in Yemen have reduced following the UN-based ceasefire in Hodeidah, but warned that ships with any connections to Saudi Arabia remain at greater threat.