News / Africa

Nigerian Offshore Attacks Surge as Pirates Advance

Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
x
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— A spike in piracy off Nigeria's oil-rich coast has shown gangs are willing to venture further afield and use more violent tactics, increasing the risk of doing business in Africa's largest energy producer.

Pirates demanded a 200 million naira, or $1.3 million, ransom for the release of six foreigners kidnapped on Sunday, the latest in at least five attacks in Nigerian waters this month.

ExxonMobil and Shell officials said this week that security was a major factor in Nigeria, and it was one of the most expensive oil-producing countries to operate in.

"The recent upsurge in maritime kidnaps off the Niger Delta has not been witnessed since 2010,'' said Tom Patterson, maritime risk analyst at Control Risks. "It is easy to underestimate the debilitating effect such a situation can have, even on larger corporations,'' Patterson added.

Oil and shipping companies have to hire crisis management teams, pay huge insurance premiums and face the prospect of ransom payments, as well as brace themselves for damage to their reputations.

At the same time, pirates are becoming more ambitious.

Three crew members were kidnapped on February 7 from the  British-flagged cargo ship Esther C around 80 miles offshore, the furthest pirates have reached in the Gulf of Guinea.

A Filipino crew member was killed when gunmen attacked a chemical tanker three days earlier, in the first confirmed case in Nigerian waters of crew killed on a vessel that deployed a private armed team, security firm AKE said.

"The main problem with the increase in West African piracy is the consequences to the crews,'' said Jakob Larsen, maritime security officer with BIMCO, the world's largest private ship owners' association. "Given the more violent nature of the pirate attacks off West Africa, there is every reason to exercise caution when deciding whether to use armed guards or not.''

Oil gangs 

The prime suspects for most attacks are Nigerian oil gangs, who already carry out industrial scale crude theft, called "bunkering" in the restive onshore Niger Delta swamplands.

Nigeria's oil minister said this week that oil theft, which
can amount to 150,000 barrels per day, was the work of an international criminal syndicate. President Goodluck Jonathan has asked Britain for help.

Security experts also believe Nigerian security officials
and politicians are complicit in oil theft and piracy.

"There are many top people in Nigeria involved in
commissioning these attacks and sharing the profits,'' said Michael Frodl, head of U.S. consultancy C-Level Maritime Risks. "It's obvious to us that they've been bringing in people in other nations into the game, and sharing a cut in exchange for tips for tankers and cargoes.''

Compounding the problem, there is less fuel available in Nigeria since Jonathan reduced subsidies last year, which has forced prices to rise. This has provided an added incentive for gangs to locally refine stolen oil or siphon fuel off ships they attack, experts say.
 
"Piracy off Nigeria and West Africa is really much more an extension of the 'bunkering' that's endemic on shore, and we think that as oil prices continue to rise, the potential for making bigger profits by reselling stolen oil will only further accelerate attacks and hijackings,'' C-Level's Frodl said.

The rise in pirate attacks comes as Nigerian forces have been more stretched in the last two years due to an Islamist insurgency in the Muslim north.

"There is a sense that security resources are being focused to combat the terrorist threat in the north of the country,'' said Rory Lamrock, intelligence analyst with AKE. "We're likely to see further attacks over the coming months as local authorities are unable to effectively police the waters, especially up to 50 or 60 nautical miles off the coast.''

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid