by E.W. | LAGOS
DOZENS of fishing merchants lean patiently against a tin wall in Lagos’s Kirikiri harbour, waiting for sea-battered boats to bring in their haul. For years, women here have bought fish to sell on to local markets, but now their livelihood is under threat. Pirates are driving Nigerian trawlers out of business. “Today there is no fresh fish, only frozen,” says a saleswoman, standing over a few meagre bags of rock-hard fish. “It is no good for us”.
The problem lies offshore. Whereas piracy off Somalia’s lawless coast on the other side of Africa is dwindling, Nigeria’s sea-robbers are increasingly confident and sophisticated. Attacks on oil rigs, cargo ships and fishing boats have soared in the past decade. The London-based International Maritime Bureau says that piracy off the coast of west Africa made up 19% of the world’s attacks last year.
Kidnapped captains can be ransomed. Sluggish trawlers are easy prey for pirates’ speedboats. A local trawling company, ORC Fishing & Food Processing, recorded about 20 incidents involving its fleet last year, including two deaths. “We have been battered by sea-robbers,” says Akinsola Amire of the Nigerian Trawler Owners’ Association. “There was a time last year when the first thing we asked in the morning was, ‘I hope there is no bad news’.”
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Maritime Security News Note:
The effects of sea robbers/armed robbers on local traffic in the Gulf of Guinea is actually somewhat easier to monitor in many ways than incidents involving Western merchant ships. Ironically, local incidents tend to make the local media, whilst hijackings, kidnappings and attacks on merchant ships often don’t. The lack of a cohesive reporting and information sharing network in the region continues to impact the shipping industry. Whether this lack of information is done deliberately by regional governments keen to ensure that insurance rates don’t sky rocket (too late), or because of corruption or a lack of reporting from the ships themselves is open to question.
However, the continued attacks and kidnappings against locals in the region are a major issue.
Fishing boats have long been a favourite mother ship for pirates operating in West and East Africa. But to the outside world, it’s not a big deal, just like the fate of all the non-Western hostages still held by pirates in Somalia, or the continued attacks against dhows in the region.