Five African countries along the continent’s sea coast have been listed by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) as risky areas for the movement of vessels and ships due to attacks by pirates said to be using weapons and rocket propelled grenade launchers.
The countries are Nigeria, Benin, Guinea, Cameroon and Somalia.
According to the IMB in its latest Piracy Prone Areas and Warnings report, ships including oil and chemical tankers are increasingly being attacked with automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenade launchers.
These pirates use guns and knives whereas five years ago they were just as likely to brandish a knife as a gun.
On Nigeria’s Lagos and Bonny River, the organisation indicates that pirates are often violent and have attacked and robbed vessels/kidnapped crews along the coast, rivers, anchorages, ports and surrounding waters.
“Generally all waters in Nigeria remain risky. Vessels are advised to be vigilant as many attacks may have gone unreported”, said the specialised division of the International Chamber Of Commerce (ICC) established in 1981 to act as a focal point in the fight against all types of maritime crime and malpractice.
With Cotonou, the capital of Benin, attacks are increasing as armed pirates are violent and in some incidents, pirates fired at ships. Pirates forced Masters to sail to unknown locations where ship’s properties and sometimes part cargo stolen, the IMB adds.
Pirates, sometimes dressed in military uniforms and armed with automatic weapons are violent and aggressive in the attacks on the shores of Conakry in Guinea whiles in Douala Outer Anchorage of Cameroon, the IMB reports that two attacks with kidnapping of crews occurred.
On the Somalia area which is one of the world’s worst piracy prone areas, it notes that pirates continue to attack vessels aggressively in the northern, eastern and southern coasts of Somalia.
“The attacks have spread and taken place very far reaching up to off Kenya, off Tanzania, off Seychelles, off Madagascar, off Mozambique/Mozambique Channel and in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea/off Oman and off west coast India and off western Maldives.”
Pirates are believed to be using “mother vessels” to launch attacks at very far distance from coast as pirates are prepared to fire their automatic weapons and RPG at vessels in order to stop them, the IMB added.
Pirate attacks on the world’s seas totalled 266 in the first six months of 2011, up from 196 incidents in the same period last year, according to the IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) report.
The report indicates that more than 60% of the attacks were by Somali pirates, a majority of which were in the Arabian Sea area.
“As of 30 June, Somali pirates were holding 20 vessels and 420 crew, and demanding ransoms of millions of dollars for their release,” said the report.
The Director of IMB, Pottengal Mukundan in a statement said “This June, for the first time, pirates fired on ships in rough seas in the Indian Ocean during the monsoon season. In the past, they would have stayed away in such difficult conditions. Masters should remain vigilant.”
Many of the attacks have been east and north-east of the Gulf of Aden, an area frequented by crude oil tankers sailing from the Arabian Gulf, as well as other traffic sailing into the Gulf of Aden, he added.
By Ekow Quandzie