Nigeria: pirates still kidnapping merchant crew

While Nigeria’s Joint Task Force congratulates itself in the media for capturing a number of vessels involved in oil theft (but no news on prosecutions), the real crime against mariners continues with virtually no media coverage whatsoever. Obviously, during negotiations for hostages, publicity isn’t helpful, but the attacks themselves often go unreported and unrecorded, giving a dangerously false impression of regional security.

Attacks against Offshore Supply Vessels and other associated small boats operating in Nigeria’s oil industry are sadly all too common (although you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise, given the lack of reports from the region), and the abduction of crew has been big business for some time. Earlier this month on May 8th, three crew kidnapped from Bourbon’s Surfer 1440 were released by their captors, presumably following a ransom payment although this was not confirmed. The men, all Nigerian nationals, had been kidnapped after gunmen boarded their crew boat on April 8th.

On May 14th, pirates attacked a platform supply vessel around 23nm off Port Harcourt, Nigeria and used it as a mother ship from which to launch an attack on a self-propelled barge. The pirates then kidnapped nine crew from both vessels. Then, on May 18th, pirates in two speedboats attacked and boarded an offshore tug off the Niger Delta around 20nm South of Eket, and abducted six crew, including the Captain and Engineer. Two of the men kidnapped are expatriates although their nationalities have not been confirmed at this time.

So, while Nigeria on the surface appears to be tackling maritime crime, there are 15 crew in the hands of kidnappers who may have a different perspective on things. Incoming President Buhari certainly has his work cut out in terms of maritime crime.


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