West Africa has officially overtaken Somalia as the world’s piracy hot-spot, with 966 sailors attacked last year, according to a new report by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
“The year 2012 marked the first time since the surge in piracy off the coast of Somalia that the reported number of both ships and seafarers attacked in the Gulf of Guinea surpassed that of the Gulf of Aden and of the western Indian Ocean,” the report said.
The document said that, of the 206 hostages taken last year off West Africa, five were killed.
Despite the rising danger, the report stressed that the area “has not received the attention that was brought to Somalia,” where 851 sailors were attacked last year.
The IMB said that the Gulf of Guinea, which includes waters off Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, has emerged as a new danger-zone with pirates typically targeting fuel cargo and loading it onto other ships to sell on the lucrative black market, rather than seeking ransom to release ships.
“In Nigeria, money moves quite quickly, unlike in Somalia,” explained one contributor to the report 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 report said that “co-operation between efforts at sea and those on land to build maritime security and provide job opportunities to potential pirates” was essential to reduce piracy levels in Somalia and West Africa.
Meanwhile, a French tanker is safe after a hijacking incident off West Africa.
SEA-tankers said that the 15,300–dead weight Adour (built 2003) was freed on Monday night in the Bight of Benin.
She was in ballast when contact was lost Thursday.
The company is making no further comment at the moment.
Local authorities said that the vessel was sailing off Lome, Togo, when she was boarded.
She has a French Captain and Chief Officer, plus international crew.
According to agency reports, the French officer has been freed after being seized from the tanker.
The Nigerian Army (NA) said that Benjamin Elan was found in a village in Bayelsa after his captors fled as the military moved in.
Nigerian forces stormed the ship and freed her, but the pirates fled with Elan as a hostage.
General Bata Dembiro told Reuters the other 14 crew were safe.
Elan was taken to a small village, but local youths alerted authorities to his location.
It is the second incident this year involving the French owner off Africa.
In February, its 7,100-dead weight Gascogne(built 2004) was hijacked off Cote d’Ivoire, but the vessel and her crew suffered nothing worse than having some of her cargo stolen.