Piracy on Nigerian waters: The truth

Globally, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre, based in Singapore, recorded 201 incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery in 2018, up from 180 in 2017. The Gulf of Guinea remained increasingly dangerous for seafarers as reports of attacks in waters between the Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo more than doubled in 2018.

The expansion of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea poses a dire threat to local economies, potentially undermining what little stability currently exists in the region. Oil revenue, which many countries in the region rely upon, is seriously threatened by pirate activity; 7 per cent of Nigeria’s oil wealth is believed lost due to such criminality.

Additionally, instability in the Gulf has sharply decreased revenue collected from trade; Benin, whose economy depends on taxing ships entering the port of Cotonou, has experienced a 70 per cent decline in shipping activity due to piracy.

Furthermore, as piracy drives up insurance premiums for international shipping companies, the price of imported goods in the region could spike, further imperilling local economies.

On its part, the Federal Government of Nigeria is currently working assiduously to ensure that the Nigerian Maritime domain and indeed the Gulf of Guinea is safe for local and international shipping and has taken several proactive steps to ensure this dream is actualized.

The primary approach is in ensuring that all legal loopholes related to the prosecution of offenders are plugged.

The proposed legislation, widely known as the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Bill, 2018, is being sponsored by NIMASA and has been presented to the National Assembly where it has passed the first and second hearing stages and should be passed into law in 2019:

The Bill incorporates the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the Suppression of Unlawful Acts at Sea (SUA) conventions of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) into comprehensive legislation to deal with the menace of piracy and related crimes in the Nigerian maritime domain.

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved the acquisition of maritime security assets under the ‘Deep Blue Project’ which will cover aerial, joint maritime and shore surveillance systems as well as physical patrols of our coastal and Gulf of Guinea waters.

The project is an all-encompassing security scheme aimed at maintaining a 24-hrs eagle eye view of our maritime domain and has been midwifed by NIMASA under the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA).

On its part, the Executive Management of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) under the leadership of Dr. Dakuku Adol Peterside is fully aware of the economic losses resulting from maritime insecurity and the consequent high costs, for stakeholders, involved in adopting extra security measures and insurance premiums.

NIMASA as the Designated Authority (DA) responsible for administering the maritime industry, while ensuring safer and more secure waters, has adopted a Total Spectrum Strategy to combat insecurity in the nation’s coastal waters and in the greater Gulf of Guinea area.

The Agency’s Management is also aware of the effect of marine insecurity on maritime-related businesses culminating in reduced employment and business opportunities in the Nigerian maritime industry not to mention the negative international media coverage which in itself is bad for attracting and sustaining investments into the sector.

The Nigerian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre at Kirikiri Lagos will considerably enhance the dissemination of information in the Nigerian Maritime Domain.

The incident reports from Masters of Ships/Skippers on piracy attacks or suspicious crafts will promptly be relayed to the Nigerian Navy for immediate response. Distress messages will henceforth be directly intercepted by the RMRCC thus eliminating the delay in relayed messages.

The Agency is working out modalities to ensure that all Shipowners install Ship Security Alert System (SSAS) which when triggered onboard will automatically alert the MRCC and Naval Authorities of any piracy attack. At the bilateral level, Nigeria has been at the forefront of enhancing cooperation aimed at improving security in the Gulf of Guinea.

This is demonstrated by the concluded joint maritime security patrols carried out with the Benin Republic tagged “Operation Prosperity” which succeeded in reducing the number of pirate attacks off the coast of both countries.

Participation in regional exercises has also yielded positive results with the GoG member states now conducting cross-border patrols, sharing law-enforcement intelligence, establishing and maintaining joint coordination centres through the implementation of a regional strategy.

The US Navy component of AFRICOM has been conducting exercises such as Obangame and Saharan Express to reinforce and activate operational agreements.

In this regard, the Agency fully participated in the 2018 version of the Obangame Express held in the GoG Region. Another example of international partnerships entered into by NIMASA in efforts to eradicate maritime insecurity involved NIMASA’s exercise tagged ‘Operation 30 Days At Sea’ which saw INTERPOL in conjunction with the NIMASA, Nigeria Police Force, Nigerian Navy amongst others to conduct patrols in GoG territorial waters in 2018.

It is a peculiarity of how piracy incidents are reported that leaves the Gulf of Guinea open to exaggerated security threat levels. A situation where every incident of maritime crime regardless of nature and scale are reported as ‘Piracy’, it is inevitable that figures reflecting on these would be higher than they would ordinarily have been.

For example, information from the ICC-IMB indicates 149 recorded incidents of piracy and 34 attempted piracy attacks whereas statistics from the Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre (MRCC) show that there were only 31 cases of piracy and 18 cases of attempted piracy in Nigerian territorial waters in the same period under-reportage.

Bearing in mind that most of the cases reported involved opportunistic theft from vessels and activities of oil bunkerers, it is unfortunate that the optics of violent, armed pirates roaming the GoG with impunity continue to pervade international media coverage whereas this is very far from the reality. NIMASA, on its part, has raised the issue of misrepresentation by the IMB to the International Maritime Organisation, at its annual meetings on numerous occasions highlighting the inconsistencies in the reportage of piracy incidents and the negative effects that has on the perception of the Gulf of Guinea maritime area.

Regardless, Nigeria’s maritime territory and the Gulf of Guinea at large remain very viable domains that must be secured in view of the fact that activities within this domain are significant to the economic well-being of our nation and the sub-region.

By securing this strategic area, we would be encouraging further commercial engagements with the international shipping community, which translates to an additional boost to our national and regional economies.

Clearly, the truth about piracy in our waters is that NIMASA has acquitted her responsibilities in securing our territorial waters commendably despite ongoing challenges and has contributed, through aggressive implementation of drawn up strategies and collaboration with international agencies and Gulf of Guinea countries, to improve the security situation in the region’s maritime space.



Nigerian Pirates Kidnap Five After Firefight with Escort Boat

According to the ICC IMB’s Piracy Report, Nigerian pirates kidnapped five crewmembers from an OSV in the Gulf of Guinea last weekend despite the efforts of a security escort vessel. After an active firefight between the escort and the attackers, pirates boarded the target vessel, ransacked its cabins and made off with the victims.

At about 1115 hours UTC on Saturday, at a position about 30 nm off Brass, Nigeria, armed pirates in two speed boats approached an OSV under way. The OSV’s captain called for help from what IMB ICC described as a “naval escort security boat,” which maneuvered to engage the attackers. One speed boat closed in from port side of the vessel and crossed the bow, while the other speed boat exchanged fire with the security boat.

To defend themselves against the attack, the OSV’s crew gathered in the engine room and shut down all power. The pirates in the second speedboat boarded the vessel using a ladder. They broke into the deckhouse, vandalized the cabins and took crew belongings and vessel’s equipment. The pirates then proceeded to the engine room, kidnapped five men and escaped. The remaining crews sailed the vessel under escort to a safe anchorage.

One Nigerian Navy armed guard was reportedly killed in the exchange of fire between the naval security boat and the pirates.

Nigeria forbids the presence of embarked private maritime security contractors at its seaports. This effectively prohibits Gulf of Guinea vessel operators from using on-board armed guards, which have proven successful in deterring pirates in the high-risk area off Somalia. Instead, Nigeria permits private contractors to provide for-hire Security Escort Vessel (SEV) services using civilian boats and armed Nigerian Navy active duty servicemembers. According to one well-regarded security services firm, this system has historically been challenged by “extremely high costs and issues of poor performance and reliability.”

Source: The Maritime Executive


Crew Kidnapped by Pirates With Machine Guns Near Brass, Nigeria

09.03.2019: 1115 UTC: Posn: 03:57.2N – 006:39.0E, Around 32nm SE of Brass, Nigeria.

Pirates armed with machine guns in two speed boats approached an offshore support vessel underway. The Captain immediately notified the naval escort security boat which manoeuvred to engage the attackers. One speed boat closed in from the port side of the vessel and crossed the bow, while the other speed boat exchanged fire with the security boat. Alarm raised, crew proceeded to the engine room and all power was shut down. The pirates boarded the vessel with the aid of an elongated ladder. They broke into the accommodation, vandalized the cabins and took crew belongings and vessel’s properties. The pirates then proceeded to the engine room, kidnapped five men and escaped. The remaining crews sailed the vessel under escort to a safe anchorage. One Nigerian Navy armed guard reported killed in the exchange of fire between the naval security boat and the pirates. Investigations ongoing.

Source: ICC


Sabah Curfew Extended Amid Ongoing Kidnap-For-Ransom Threat

The dawn-to-dusk curfew in Sabah’s east coast has been extended another two weeks from Tuesday (March 12), amid continuing threats from Abu Sayyaf-linked cross-border kidnapping groups and other criminal elements.

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Omar Mammah said that the extension until March 27 was necessary due to the continuing threat of kidnap-for-ransom groups and other criminals from neighbouring Philippines.

Security forces in the east coast of Sabah remain on alert along its borders.

The latest extension comes amid reports that the Abu Sayyaf gunmen behind kidnap-for-ransom groups are seeking value targets along the southern Philippines Tawi Tawi chain of islands that straddles Sabah’s east coast.

In a statement Monday (March 11), Comm Omar said there was a need to continue the curfew in the east coast waters to prevent the encroachment of terrorists and criminals who can threaten the safety of locals, international researchers, and tourists.

“We have intelligence reports indicating that kidnap-for-ransom groups and Abu Sayyaf militants are still trying to commit cross-border crimes.

“We also want to ensure the safety of the people of Sabah who use the waters and are staying near Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone),” he added.

Comm Omar said that the curfew would allow better enforcement and monitoring of the movements of boats and vessels in the area.

The presence of a security team would also help establish a sense of security among nearby chalet owners and fishermen.

“All district police chiefs have been authorised to issue permits to eligible applicants who fit the criteria to conduct fishing activities in the areas affected by the curfew,” he added.

Sabah’s east coast curfew was first implemented in July 19, 2014, following a series of kidnappings that year.

It has remained in place with security forces stating that it was needed to ensure high security was in place in the area that borders the southern Philippines islands of Tawi Tawi.

Two separate cross-border kidnappings involving fishermen occurred on Sept 11 and Dec 5, 2018, within Sabah’s east coast border waters.

Source: Maritime Security Review


One incident of armed robbery reported to ReCAAP ISC

During 5 to 11 March 2019, an incident of armed robbery against ship was reported to ReCAAP ISC. The incident took place on 5 February 19 and was reported to ReCAAP ISC by Focal Point Singapore after verification with the relevant agencies. The incident occurred about 1.3 nm southwest of the Western Boarding Ground Alpha, Singapore.

Specifically, as the tug boat towing barge ‘Jin Hwa 43’ was underway, the master of the tug boat reported to Singapore Vessel Traffic Information System (VTIS) and Singapore Police Coast Guard that some perpetrators were boarding the barge from a few small boats.

The barge was laden with scrap iron. The master later reported that the perpetrators had departed the barge with some scrap iron. The tug boat and barge resumed its voyage to Penang, Malaysia.

The crew was not injured, but some scrap iron was stolen.

After the incident, the master of the tug boat reported the incident to the Singapore Vessel Traffic Information System (VTIS) and Singapore Police Coast Guard.

As the threat of abduction of crew in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and waters off eastern Sabah remains, ReCAAP ISC maintains its advisory issued via the ReCAAP ISC Incident Alert dated 21 November 2016 to all ships to reroute from the area, where possible.

Otherwise, ship masters and crew are strongly recommended to be extra vigilance while sailing through the area, and report immediately to the Operation Centres of Philippines and Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) of Malaysia.

The ReCAAP ISC also calls ship master and crew to report all incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships to the nearest coastal State and flag State, exercise vigilance and adopt relevant preventive measures taking reference from the Regional Guide to Counter Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia.



Iranian navy thwarts pirate attack on oil tanker -state TV

Iranian naval forces intervened to repel pirates who attacked an Iranian oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden, state television reported on Friday.

The broadcast said pirates in 11 speedboats attacked a tanker with a cargo of 150,000 tonnes on Thursday. It showed naval forces opening fire on speedboats, without saying whether the footage was from the latest incident.

Iran’s navy has extended its reach in recent years, dispatching vessels to the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden to protect Iranian ships from Somali pirates.



ReCAAP ISC: Numbers don’t say the full story

Entering the 13th year of its establishment, ReCAAP ISC has been a key contributor in global efforts to restrain the ever-evolving maritime piracy landscape in Asia. As the first government-to-government regional agreement against piracy, one of its notable achievements is sharing figures to raise awareness. But to what extent is this feedback properly accepted by the industry? Is it possible sometimes that we only look at numbers and ignore the actual meaning?

Established in 2006, the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) is the first regional government-to-government agreement to boost cooperation against piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia. Based in Singapore and managed by a governing council, today it counts 20 contracting parties, including Europe, Australia, and the US.

Key areas of action

The mission of ReCAAP is to enhance regional cooperation against piracy, through three pillars of activities:

  1. Information sharing: Information sharing has been the primary focus of ReCAAP’s work, through the ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre (ISC), aiming to enable authorities to encounter the issue more effectively, as well as shipowners and masters to plan their voyages accordingly when transiting high risk areas. Namely, information sharing refers to:
  • the establishment of a 24/7 secure web-based Information Sharing Network (IFN) in 2006 facilitating communication between ReCAAP ISC and ReCAAP Focal Points
  • the launch of an IFN mobile app in 2014 to enable greater accessibility to incident reporting
  • the publication of periodical and special reports, timely alerts and updates, as well as forums and conferences as a result from the timely and accurate reporting by Focal Points.

ReCAAP ISC cooperates on 24/7 basis with Focal Points of 20 member states, which are key components to the anti-piracy work, as they are closely managing piracy in territorial waters and form a pillar of the effective information exchange.

  1. Capacity building: Workshops and meetings are aimed to strengthen Focal Points Network and boost situation awareness and education.
  2. Cooperative arrangements: ReCAAP ISC is working through an extensive network of partnerships, enabling collaboration on training programmes and joint projects on measures to prevent and reduce piracy, as well as information exchange and mutual support.

To improve Incident Severity awareness ReCAAP is using relevant KPIs

An innovative aspect of ReCAAP’s work is the classification of incidents per severity. To provide some perspective, ReCAAP ISC evaluates the significance of each incident in terms of two factors:

  • the level of violence (type of weapons used, treatment of the crew, number of pirates/robbers engaged in an attack) and
  • the economic loss incurred (type of the property taken from the ship).


CAT 1 – the most severe incidents:

  • They involve more than 9 men as perpetrators
  • They are mostly armed with guns and knives
  • The crew is likely to suffer some form of injury or physical violence such as being assaulted or tied up or threatened
  • The ship is either hijacked or the cargo onboard is stolen.


  • Most of these involve 4-9 men
  • They are likely to be armed with knives/machetes and in 1/4 of the incidents, armed with guns.
  • The crew is likely to be threatened or held hostage temporarily. In a few cases, the crew suffers some form of injury or physical violence, but less severe in nature than CAT 1 incidents.
  • Perpetrators may steal the crew’s cash and ship’s property including engine spares.


  • These usually involve groups of 1-6 men.
  • At times, perpetrators are armed with knives/machetes/ others or other items such as sticks, rods, bats etc.
  • The crew is not harmed, although there remains a small possibility that the crew could be subject to duress during the incident but not harmed physically.
  • In almost half of the CAT 3 incidents, the perpetrators were unable to steal anything from the vessel, but in cases where losses were reported, stores and engine spares were the commonly targeted items.

CAT 4 – the less severe incidents

  • More than half of CAT 4 incidents involve 1-3 men
  • The perpetrators are not armed
  • The crew is not harmed
  • Perpetrators escape empty-handed.

Key observations

Recently-published figures for 2018 revealed a total of 76 incidents against ships in Asia through the year, comprising of 62 actual and 14 attempted incidents.

Notably, out of the 62 actual incidents, two were CAT 1 incidents, eight were CAT 2 incidents, 14 were CAT 3 incidents and 38 were CAT 4 incidents.

While 76 sounds remarkable, only two CAT 1 incidents and eight CAT 2 incidents were reported. Figures of CAT 1 and CAT 2 incidents reported in 2018 have been the lowest among the 10-year period.

Meanwhile, taking a look into figures for the 10-year reporting period of 2009-2018, CAT 4 incidents are generally at the top of the list, while CAT 1 at the bottom. More specifically, comparing numbers of 2015 (199 incidents) with 2016 (78 incidents), indicates on the one hand a significant drop in security related incidents, but on the other hand, an increase of severe incidents in 2016. On the same context, 2017 returned with an increase of incidents (90) compared to the previous year, but CAT 1 incidents were less than the half than in 2016!

2018 shows overall improvement

The situation in Asia has shown an overall improvement, with a 25% decrease from 2017 to 2018, and particularly a 31% decrease of actual incidents. Both the total number of incidents and number of actual incidents in 2018 are the lowest among the 10-year period of 2009-2018. There was also improvement at some ports and anchorages in 2018, compared to 2017.

Namely, from 2017 to 2018:

  • A decrease was reported in incidents at Manila anchorages, Philippines, in South China Sea
  • There was a decrease in the number of incidents of abduction of crew for ransom in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and waters off Eastern Sabah
  • There was no theft of oil cargo in 2018
  • However, more than 10 incidents were recorded at ports/ anchorages in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, Indonesia, and Chittagong, Bangladesh.
  • There were also slight increases reported in Malaysia and Vietnam.

Key Considerations

In the meantime, either there is a decrease or an increase in the number of incidents, it always remains somehow unclear whether this is due to underreporting or it forms a true reflection of the current situation. This is why ReCAAP ISC constantly maintains its advice to crews to report all incidents to the nearest coastal Sate and flag State immediately. In this regard, ReCAAP ISC urges ship master and crew to report all incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships to the nearest coastal State and flag State, exercise vigilance and adopt relevant preventive measures taking reference from the Regional Guide to Counter Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia.



Pirate attack off Togo spooks West Africa bunker market

Pirates have seized a tanker carrying clean oil products off the coast of Togo, according to news reports, sending an ominous signal to the regional bunker market.

The 40,416 dwt Histria Ivory, flagged to Malta, was off the coast of Togo and near the port off Lome on Tuesday, according to S&P Global Platts ship tracking software cFlow.

The seizure has made bunker market participants in the region nervous, a market source said.

The vessel, with Romanian crew members on board, was involved in an incident March 3 in the territorial waters of Togo, the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Platts.

The vessel was carrying petrochemicals and was leaving the port, according to news reports.



Armed pirates in a speed boat approached and boarded a tanker underway.

02.03.2019: 1225 UTC: Posn: 04:30.57N – 003:14.30E, Around 113nm South of Lagos, Nigeria.
Armed pirates in a speed boat approached and boarded a tanker underway. Alarm raised and all crew mustered in the citadel. Upon receiving information on the incident, the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) immediately informed the Nigerian Authorities. A naval patrol boat was dispatched to assist the tanker. The IMB PRC continued to liaise with the Authorities and the Owners until the naval team boarded the tanker and confirmed all crew safe. The tanker later resumed her intended passage to the next port.

Source: ICC


Three Seafarers Abducted From Product Tanker in Gulf of Guinea

Three Romanian crewmembers of the product tanker Histria Ivory have been kidnapped by pirates off Togo, according to Romania’s Free Trade Union of Navigators (SLN) and the Romanian Ministy of Foreign Affairs (MAE).

At about 1930 hours on Sunday, pirates attacked the Ivory at a position about 20 miles off the port of Lome, Togo. The majority of the crew took shelter in the ship’s citadel, but three Romanian nationals were abducted. The pirates fled the scene after the kidnapping, and local authorities escorted the Ivory to a safe anchorage.

The vessel was reportedly damaged during the attack, but none of the crewmembers were injured, according to the MAE. The union posted images purported to describe the wreckage aboard the Ivory (below).

“The Free Trade Union of Navigators warns that in the Gulf of Guinea, the rate of pirate incidents is increasing in intensity, which affects seafarers and global shipping,” the SLN said in a statement. “In high-risk areas, it is necessary to increase vigilance on the bridge and tune radar for small distances to prevent any attempted attack to succeed. Also, the piracy procedures must be well received by each crewmember and followed precisely in case of piracy incidents.”

Source: The Maritime Executive

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