‘Maximum alert’: warning of new piracy threat from armed Nigerian group

Military sources say gunmen planning new attack off Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea

Shipowners have been warned to be “on maximum alert” after a warning of a new piracy threat from Nigeria.

The piracy reporting body Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade – Gulf of Guinea (MDAT-GoG) said it had received information from military sources that an armed group from Rivers State is planning an attack against vessels in Zone D, particularly off Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea.

“It is likely the attack will occur at low tide, when the monitoring units are missing,” MDAT-GoG added.

The reporting body asked shipping companies and local authorities “to be on maximum alert, to increase vigilance and surveillance and intensify intelligence both on the water and in the port.”

Suspicious boats must be searched

MDAT-GoG also said that all suspicious boats coming from or leaving Nigeria should be systematically identified and searched.

Security consultancy said that this year the concentration of incidents in Zone D had remained focused within the northern waters in the vicinity of Douala and Limbe in Cameroon, and Malabo and Luba in Equatorial Guinea.

“It is assessed as highly likely that any incident forthcoming would continue to follow this trend and occur within this region,” the company added.

“Incident reporting within Zone D has mirrored that of the wider West Africa with partial increases in reports of serious maritime crime and piracy occurring across the region.”

And attacks have been taking place more and more beyond the traditional heartland of Nigerian waters.

“This trend looks set to continue with few effective domestic naval resources able to be deployed beyond the immediate port and anchorage areas,”

Crew released

Last week, 13 seafarers kidnapped in July off a tanker in the Gulf of Guinea were released.

Shipmanagement sources told TradeWinds that the seven Russians and six Ukrainians on board the 11,300-dwt Curacao Trader (built 2007) are safe and sound.

They were awaiting repatriation, which has been made difficult by travel restrictions related to Covid-19.

The crew spent about six weeks in captivity, which is within the usual length that seafarers are held for ransom in the area, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which tracks piracy.

West Africa accounted for 67 out a total 77 hostage situations and kidnappings recorded worldwide in the first six months of 2020, according to IMB data.