IMB notes increase in piracy off West Africa coast

Three tankers hijacked in the past month.
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The ICC International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB-PRC) has recorded a spike in activity off the coast of West Africa, logistics firm GAC reported on its website.

Since 18 August 2012, three vessels have been hijacked by pirates in this region. These recent attacks are notable as they have all been against tankers, with the purpose of stealing the valuable cargoes on board.

Furthermore, the incidents reported off West Africa are characterised by the degree of violence used against crew.

On 18 August 2012, a tanker was hijacked whilst at anchorage off Lome.

Another tanker was attacked nearby on 28 August 2012. On 5 September 2012, a tanker was boarded whilst at anchorage off Lagos. In the last case, the crew secured themselves in the vessel's citadel whilst the Nigerian navy despatched a helicopter and warship to successfully rescue the vessel.

IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan said: "The attacks off West Africa follow a different modus operandi from pirate activity in other parts of the world. In addition to armed robbery, the more serious attacks involve the hijacking of product tankers to steal a part of the cargo. All the attacks usually involve high levels of violence against the crew. After the hijacking the product is lightered on to smaller vessel to be taken and sold illegally in the region. There has long been a market for the distribution and supply of these illegal oil cargoes."

Up to 5 September 2012, there have been 40 reported attacks on vessels in the Gulf of Guinea, with 19 vessels boarded and eight successfully hijacked. In total, 168 crew members have been taken hostage and two have lost their lives.

Mukundan added: "There continues to be a serious problem with under-reporting of attacks in this area. This may be because of a fear of reprisals or a feeling that little will change as a result. The IMB recommends that every attack is reported because it is only by bringing the scale of the crime into the open that authority will allocate appropriate resources to deal with piracy."

The IMB-PRC recommends vigilance to all vessels operating in this region and urges the prompt reportage of any suspicious activity.
 

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