Undated photo of MT Kerala
This is the first of a two-part series on piracy in West Africa.
In the early hours of 18 January 2014 a 75,000-ton tanker, the MT Kerala, vanished off the coast of Angola. A sophisticated pirate gang hijacked the Greek-owned vessel, disabling its identifications system and communication equipment, and painting over its identifying markers.
More than a week later and 1,300 miles away, the hijackers released Kerala off the coast of Nigeria, after offloading 12,270 tons of its diesel cargo to other ships. Read More
C-Escort, owned by Edison Chouest Offshore of Cut Off, La., is a sistership to the C-Retriever. American crew from the C-Retriever were kidnapped by Nigerian pirates on Oct. 23, 2013.
The kidnapping of two American mariners on Oct. 23 does not signal the rise of a new piracy threat off Nigeria, but rather the re-emergence of an old one
U.S. news outlets were quick to proclaim piracy is now “skyrocketing” off the West African nation.
But those types of blanket statements fail to capture the fluid nuances of maritime crime in the region, which has largely decreased in the past few years. Read More
A crew member prepares to board a tanker that was hijacked by pirates in Benin on 24 July 2011. UN Photo
The winds of global piracy have shifted, as attacks by pirates off West Africa now exceed those of their Somali counterparts. The Nigeria-based pirates may not yet inspire Hollywood films, but they have prompted regional governments to take collective action. A June 24–25 summit in Yaounde, Cameroon, brought representatives from the Economic Community of West African States, the Economic Community of Central African States, and the Gulf of Guinea Commission together to draft a code of conduct concerning the prevention of piracy, armed robbery against ships, and illicit maritime activity. It has been signed by 22 states. Read More
Cameroon navy Lt. j.g. Yves Itondo during Exercise Obangame Expressin February. The exercise is an at-sea maritime exercise designed to improve cooperation among participating nations to promote maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea. US Navy Photo
Portions of this article were first published with OCEANUS Live
Pity the Somali pirates, who after an abysmal year in 2012, have only managed to (unsuccessfully) attack two vessels thus far in 2013. Piracy is now much more lucrative in West Africa, where there have been at least 10 reported attacks in the past month alone. In the waters of Nigeria, a dozen mariners from three separate vessels were kidnapped by pirates during a single 10-day period. Côte d’Ivoire had never witnessed the hijacking and large-scale robbery of an oil tanker before October 2012, but already has had two such vessels pilfered from its waters this year. Read More