Four Attacks in One Week: The Rising Risk of West African Piracy

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It’s no secret that African waters are among the most perilous in the world when it comes to piracy. Tom Hanks’ “Captain Phillips” brought attention to Somalian piracy, but the immediate concern for ship owners is on the opposite side of the continent: West Africa.

West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea has been topping the charts for quite some time now when it comes to piracy and kidnapping. Last week, however, the problem accelerated: A total of four cases has been recorded in a single week, spanning from November 26 to December 2. In this week, a total of 14 crew members have been directly abducted from their ships, something that happened in just three days from two different ships.

In one incident on November 26, the general cargo ship Milan was attacked and boarded by pirates, who went on to kidnap 10 crew members. In a separate incident three days later, the Greek tanker Agisilaos was attacked and boarded by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea south of Lome, Togo, while she was en route from Pointe-Noire, Republic of Congo, to Lome. Four crew members – including Filipino, Romanian and Russian nationals – were kidnapped, and the pirates escaped the scene.

The list doesn’t stop there. Armed pirates stormed the cargo vessel Tango Rey in Conakry Anchorage, Guinea. Six armed pirates boarded the ship and looted the superstructure and the living quarters of the crew.

The last attack was repulsed. On December 2, the oil tanker Levanto was attacked in Nigerian waters by a host of pirates. Fortunately, the guards onboard thwarted the attack.

Kidnappings rose by 40 percent in the Gulf of Guinea in the first nine months of this year, and the region of West Africa’s coast now accounts for 95 percent of global maritime kidnappings, according to data from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

West African pirates armed with guns and knives have attacked everything from oil platforms to fishing vessels and refrigerated cargo ships. Out of all the countries in the Gulf of Guinea, Nigeria (particularly the Niger Delta) accounts for the bulk of attacks on these ships.

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