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Lloyds List: Attacks a threat to Gulf of Guinea installations

Incidents of piracy in the region tend to be connected to the illegal trade in oil, writes Helen Symonds
Feb 07, 2006
A MAJOR armed attack on a supply ship in Nigerian waters in January has highlighted the continuing threat to vessels and installations in the Gulf of Guinea.
Incidences of marine piracy in the region in the last year have centred primarily on Nigeria: attacks in Nigeria's territorial waters are focused on the Niger Delta and are connected to the illegal trade in oil.
Incidences of piracy have capitalised on the nation's political unrest and have more recently been masterminded in order to draw attention to political and ethnic causes. The effective deployment of the Nigerian Navy is becoming key to marine security in the wider Gulf of Guinea.
While focusing on the overall reduction in incidences of piracy including in Nigeria, a recently published International Maritime Bureau piracy report highlighted the concurrent increase in hostage-taking.
This is true of Nigeria: during the most recent piracy incident on January 11, rebels from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Nile Delta, boarded the Sea Eagle, a supply ship operating 8 miles southwest of the Dodo river, off the Shell EA field. Forty persons armed with guns in three canoes boarded the vessel, proceeding to vandalise the ship's equipment and kidnapping four foreign personnel. The gang failed to demand a ransom, instead calling for the release of two Ijaw leaders. The hostages were released 19 days later.
If Nigeria descends into further political unrest, attacks against foreign oil companies like the recent attack against Agip facilities in Port Harcourt will increase and may be manifested as marine piracy. In Somalia, it is clear that there is a direct connection between the political stability and rates of marine piracy: the anarchy onshore is mirrored by a state of lawlessness surrounding the Somali coast.
Incidences of piracy in Nigerian waters have also become more violent, notably at the Escravos anchorage in September where two crew members of the Oragreen were shot, mirroring a similarly violent incident at the same location, again involving firearms, a year earlier.
Operation Igbochi a Nigerian naval security operation was launched in December specifically targeting marine crime and potential terrorism in the Niger Delta region and the Gulf of Guinea and is the first operation of this type for 10 years.
To date, more than 500 naval personnel have been deployed to the area in a display of capability. Chief of naval staff, vice-admiral Ganiyu Adekeye has expressed the need for constant patrols, insisting that the nation's multi-billion dollar Bonga project must not be left unprotected.
This latest campaign follows similar unsuccessful initiatives instigated by Adekeye in 2003, which focused on state and federal co-operation in updating facilities and co-ordinating security. It is unclear whether the latest plans to develop a response team focusing on the Port Harcourt area will be effective in impacting on the 450 nautical mile area that makes up the Eastern Naval Command area of operation.
While priority has been placed on the Bonga oil field and eastern coastline around Port Harcourt and Onne, the most successful incidences of piracy, numbering around eight in the past year, have involved containerships anchored in Lagos.
The October attack on a bulk carrier anchored at Lagos by 10 robbers armed with knives typifies attacks of this type during which the ship's stores were stolen. Although the effects of attacks on the oil industry are most widely publicised, the increase in marine piracy has also had a significant impact on the fishing industry, disrupting the operation of trawlers.
MIG's Piracy Threat Assessment is a tool designed to assist its clients in the marine and insurance industries in understanding the risks posed to their shipping'marine operations.
It is one of a variety of bespoke services that MIG provides to facilitate the identification, understanding and minimisation of risk exposure across a number of industries world-wide.
Helen Symonds is an analyst at The Merchant International Group Ltd, specialists in strategic research and corporate intelligence. Contact: +44 (0)20 7259 5060, email: [email protected], web: www.merchantinternational.com.

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