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Report: Alarming rise in piracy off West Africa

Dave Jenkins/Rex Features

A suspected pirate vessel is searched by a boarding team from a U.K. naval vessel 350 nautical miles from the Somali coast in November.

The number of pirate attacks in West African waters is increasing alarmingly, according to a new report.

The International Maritime Bureau’s global piracy report said there were 102 incidents worldwide in the first three months of 2012; four people were killed, 212 crew members were taken hostage and 11 vessels were hijacked.


A further 45 vessels were boarded, there were 32 attempted attacks and 14 vessels were fired on.

A statement emailed to journalists from the International Chamber of Commerce – the International Maritime Bureau is part of its anti-crime arm – said there had been a dangerous rise in the number of attacks off Nigeria and other West African countries.

“Nigerian piracy is increasing in incidence and extending in range,” Pottengal Mukundan, director of the IMB Piracy Reporting Center, said in the statement.

“At least six of the 11 reported incidents in Nigeria occurred at distances greater than 70 nautical miles from the coast, which suggests that fishing vessels are being used as motherships to attack shipping further afield,” he added.

High levels of violence
The statement said there had been 10 reports of piracy from Nigeria in the first quarter of the year, the same as reported for the whole of 2011. A further attack in neighboring Benin was also attributed to Nigerian pirates.

It said two crew members were killed when their vessel was boarded 110 nautical miles off Nigeria.

However, Somalia continued to see the most incidents, with 43 attacks resulting in nine vessels being hijacked. This was down from the first quarter of 2011, when 97 incidents and 16 hijackings were reported.

Video: An intimate look at the search for pirates

“While the number of reported incidents in Nigeria is still less than Somalia, and hijacked vessels are under control of the pirates for days rather than months, the level of violence against crew is dangerously high,” Mukundan said.

The International Chamber of Commerce runs a global map of piracy attacks that is updated live.

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