West African pirates shift tactics

By Jeremy Binnie

6/6/2013

Pirates in the Gulf of Guinea are ranging further from their bases in Nigeria to attack moving ships and are apparently developing ways to force their way into crew quarters in order to take hostages for ransom.

Most pirate attacks in the region target stationary ships that are waiting to berth at a port or oil terminal. For example, unidentified men attempted to climb the anchor chain of a chemicals tanker in Lomé anchorage on 17 May, but were repelled with fire hoses.

However, there have been a growing number of attacks on moving ships in recent months. In the latest incident, the Nigerian products tanker¬†Matrix I¬†was reportedly boarded as it was sailing 74 km off the Nigerian coast on 25 May. The fate of the vessel’s crew and cargo remain unclear and the attack has not been reported to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

This incident followed a spate of attacks that were similarly far from the Nigerian coast. They included the hijacking of a supply boat called Utai 8 on 25 April, which was then used to attack the container ship City of Xiamen and abduct five members of its crew later that same day.

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