• Experts Say Nigerian Pirates Are Getting More Sophisticated
Even as maritime industry stakeholders (including the National Assembly) are still undecided about emerging efforts to tackle the rising spate of piracy, the Ministry of defence has organized its own ‘stakeholders’ meeting’ with security agencies; especially the Navy to kick-start government’s response.
Presiding over a meeting with security chiefs in Abuja last week, the Minister of State for Defence, Erelu Olusola Obada, declared that her ministry “will articulate clearly defined procedures and guidelines for compliance with the IMO regulation in accordance with extant laws and regulation."
She also added that government is consulting with maritime stakeholders on how to allow merchant vessels to use armed private security personnel.
The move also coincided with a disclosure last week to the effect that that pirates on Nigerian waters now use crafts similar to the ones employed by Somali pirates.
Bergen Risk Solutions, the Norwegian based specialist in political, maritime and security risk assessments that puts a special focus on Nigeria and the Niger Delta identified what it called “worrying new trend in Nigerian piracy” , which involves the use of mother ships and skiffs in a similar manner to Somali Pirate Action Groups.
Bergen Risk Solutions says this is a "relatively new development … and increases the pirates' range and therefore the risk of incidents far offshore."
In the Incident Library of its latest Nigeria Maritime Security review, Bergen Risk Solutions notes four incidents in the first quarter of 2012 in which mother ship involvement is suspected, the most recent being an attack on a Nigerian flag chemical tanker 80 nm south of Brass on March 22 in which a speedboat carrying 10 armed pirates was deployed from a fishing vessel.
The defence minister also acknowledged that there has been an upsurge in attack on ships, which, according to her, continue to hamper shipping operations, especially within the coast of Somalia, Gulf of Aden and a great expanse of the Indian Ocean.
She said: "The non-implementation of this policy in Nigeria might lead to diversion of shipping to safer ports within the sub-region as well as causing attendant high cost of insurance and other charges brought about by shipment of Nigeria bound goods. Ultimately, this would have adverse effect on the nation's economy."
The minister said the meeting discussed administrative procedure, legal framework and implementation guidelines for the IMO regulation among others.
Shipping Position Daily recalls that in response to the alarming rate of attacks on cargo-laden ships, especially on waters along the Gulf of Aden and Gulf of Guinea, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in conjunction with the Maritime Safety Committee has approved varying degrees of interim measures for private shipping lines to hire private security personnel to provide safe passage for routes considered to be high risk areas.
West African pirates have been increasingly attacking ships further and further from shore. It is generally believed that in the next three months, the areas of highest risk will be the Bight of Bonny east of 006°E, offshore rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River states and their waterways, including the Bonny and Calabar Rivers.