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Pirate attacks in Gulf of Guinea spark fears of higher related costs

CONCERNS linger over the cost of doing business may surge in Nigeria and other nations located in the Gulf of Guinea given the renewed threat of maritime piracy

15 January 2020 - 19:00

CONCERNS linger over the cost of doing business may surge in Nigeria and other nations located in the Gulf of Guinea given the renewed threat of maritime piracy.

Maritime security firm Dryad Global said the pirate-infested waters of the Gulf of Guinea are now the world's most dangerous for international shipping, with at least nine vessels attacked and 89 crew hijacked for ransom in 2019.



Three ships, according to Dryad managed to repel pirates at the end of 2019, including liquefied natural gas carrier BW Lokoja and suezamax tanker Istanbul. The company noted that at least two piracy groups working in the Gulf of Guinea are responsible for a spate of attacks on tankers and the kidnapping of crew, reported UK's The Guardian.



The firm said it has 'identified a mothership, which one pirate group is using to operate deep offshore, as well as a separate group that's exploiting ambiguous and haphazard patrolling on the outskirts of Nigeria's Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ).'



'The EEZ extends for 240 nautical miles,' said Dryad Global chief executive Phil Diacon said: 'These criminal actors are using the EEZ as a cover from Nigerian forces and the international naval forces.



'By operating on the margins of the zone, the pirates take advantage of ineffective co-ordination between Nigerian patrols and confusion about whether international forces have jurisdiction,' he said.



The mothership used by one pirate group further offshore was identified using global satellite imagery as the Togo-flagged, 3,250 dwt chemical tanker Determination 2, according to tankertrackers.com.



'The tanker, for which no ownership, classification or insurance details are available, has not been operating with its automatic identification satellite on at all times, thereby masking its location at the times of the attacks. So-called motherships are needed for pirates to operate in waters that are well out to sea and away from the shore.FAXTEXT = 'Another ship, the 2013-built, Nigerian-flagged, 950 dwt product tanker Adeline Jumbo (IMO 9712424) has been closely watched as well,' Mr Diacon said. 'It's not confirmed but there's a lot of circumstantial evidence about the movements of Determination 2,' he noted.



The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has described the passage as 'one of the most dangerous shipping routes in the world' and a 'world piracy hotspot'.



It stated that ships that call at ports in the region are hit with higher costs. 'Yet, because it is such a crucial part of the regional economy, ships still sail its waters and assume the increasingly higher costs that come with the threat of maritime piracy,' it stated.



Chidi Nwaonu of UK-based security firm Peccavi Consulting said: 'Congestion at Lagos ports and the lack of other options means that ships are spending a long time queuing, meaning there are a large amount of ships in a relatively small area to target.



'Due to that and a lack of naval presence, there is the motive of high financial reward and comparatively low risk of detection or capture.'



Businesses have to factor in the costs of independent security contractors, extra insurance, and, sometimes, ransom money. Considering all of this, Oceans Beyond Piracy estimates the economic cost of piracy in West Africa through 2017 at $818.1 million, up from $793.7 million the previous year.



It stated that one-quarter of that $818.1 million was spent contracting maritime security. Insurance also represents a huge cost, as the total cost of additional war risk area premiums incurred by ships transiting the Gulf was $18.5 million in 2017 alone, and 35 per cent of ships transiting the area also carried additional kidnap and ransom insurance totalling $20.7 million.



Insecurity is so rife in the region that global insurance firm Beazley now offers 'Gulf of Guinea Piracy Plus', a bespoke insurance plan for maritime crew travelling through the area.



The plan provides compensation for illegal vessel seizures and crew kidnappings even in the absence of ransom demands. It tracks insured vessels on a 24-hour basis, but because the risks are so high, it limits claims to $15 million.



Right at the start of the New Year, four persons were killed and three abducted following a pirate attack on a Nigeria-flagged hopper dredger in the Gulf of Guinea. The 2,153 gross tonne Ambika was attacked when operating some three nautical miles from the mouth of the Ramos River and nine nautical miles east of the Forcados Terminal in Nigeria.



On December 31, armed pirates also abducted eight crew members of the Greek-flagged tanker Happy Lady while the vessel was anchored two nautical miles off the port of Limboh, in Cameroon. The kidnapped crewmembers include five Greek nationals, two Filipinos and one Ukrainian sailor.


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