Lure of ransom
Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is becoming increasingly professional and driven by the prospect of ransom payments.
In a webinar held on 18 March Hans Tino Hansen, the founder of Risk Intelligence, and Richard Neylon, a partner in the Holman Fenwick Willan law firm in London, shared their 35 years of cumulative experience on the subject of piracy.
Ransom demands still drive this ‘business’. Nevertheless, the differences between Somalia, where global shipping flows generate publicity, and the Gulf of Guinea and the Niger Delta oil region, are significant. Hansen related how about 100 piracy incidents a year took place in the region from 2007 to 2020. The trend is stable, but attention has shifted from the Horn of Africa to West Africa. However, a qualitative change is noticeable there, as the criminals are now active throughout the region and over long distances.
In the region armed guards aren’t allowed on board ships; just private escort vessels. Fighting the pirates isn’t one of the Nigerian authorities’ priorities, even though the ‘Deep Blue Project’, funded to the tune of USD 195 million, has improved the technical facilities of the ships used and their radar equipment.
The local pirates are more violent than those operating in Somalia. They don’t shy away from fighting with escort ships; have now started deploying mother ships and navigators; and now even kidnap whole crews, and no longer, as used to be the general rule in the past, only individuals, such as the captain or the chief engineer. They also attack the citadel, the core area of the ship, more frequently.
In 2020 there were no less than 135 incidents, and 2021 also started with a bang. In January, 15 Turkish seafarers were kidnapped, and one of them was killed. In addition, the Nigerian authorities changed the law in 2019, so that shipowners now have to report incidents of piracy immediately if they want to receive any government support. There’s no end in sight to the trend. “The worse the local economic situation becomes, the more incidents there are. Piracy has to be defeated on land,” Neylon said.