When I wrote this post yesterday, I did one very deliberate thing. I used an expression which has been thrown about a lot in the last couple of weeks. The expression was “game changer”. I wanted to see what the reaction would be like to the use of such an emotive phrase, particularly by using it needlessly in the post header.
I have not been disappointed.
That a small WordPress blog could annoy so many respected intelligence experts has both amused me and proven a valuable point; this is a small, inconsequential blog about maritime crime and piracy, put together on a budget of zero. There are other entities out there with significant budgets and large numbers of staff, throwing expressions around and gaining media attention.
Just as one swallow does not make a summer, nor does one incident suggest a trend or significant change in M.O. by the wider criminal/pirate community. That will require several more incidents using similar tactics.
Much was made a few weeks ago about a pirate attack on a ship some 200 or so miles off the Nigrerian coast, with various observers calling it a ‘game changer’, apparently due to the distance of the incident from shore. Others viewed it as business as usual, as the incident was not without precedent.
An attack this week, however, may demonstrate more in the way of game changing tactics, if only because of the apparent perseverance shown by the attackers.
On August 26th, a product tanker underway around 33nm SW of Bayelsa, Nigeria, was attacked by armed pirates at 1720 UTC in position 04:12.7N-005:15.2E. A speed boat with six armed pirates was launched from a barge that crossed ahead of the tanker (CPA sadly not given) and then followed it. The tanker came under automatic gunfire for an incredible 50 minutes, during which time the crew were inside the accommodation. The ship sustained minor damage during the gunfight.
The tanker’s embarked Naval security team engaged the pirates and, although two pirates managed to board, they later fled the vessel. The tanker was eventually escorted by a Nigerian patrol boat to a safe anchorage and there were no initial reports of injuries to the crew.
The duration of this assault, however, is somewhat unusual. We’re used to seeing quick, probing attacks or successful boardings in West Africa, so for a pursuit and gun battle to last almost an hour while Nigerian Navy guards were on board the tanker is an interesting development, as is the fact that the pirates were apparently happy to continue engaging the vessel for such a period of time, seemingly unconcerned that the Nigerian Navy might have been en route.
Nigerian pirates have always enjoyed a reputation for the levels of violence they employ in their attacks, with several crew killed or injured by gunfire in recent years. If they are now so intent on seizing their prize that they’ll attack an armed ship for almost an hour, then we could be seeing an evolution in their methods or at least a new level of desperation.