Trends and incidents:
At the start of 2014 tanker hijackings dominated reporting of maritime crime and piracy off the coast of West Africa and the first two months of 2015 have seen a repetition of this pattern with 6 incidents reported from January to mid-February 15. On 11/01/15 a product tanker was hijacked approximately 63nm SW of Bayelsa, Nigeria by a group of ten individuals armed with AK47s. The tanker’s oil cargo was transferred to another vessel and 2 pirates departed with that vessel before the Ghanian navy boarded the tanker and arrested the 8 remaining individuals. On 01/02/2015 approximately 10nm off Escravos, Nigeria crew on board an anchored tanker observed an object being thrown towards the tanker from a boat approaching the tanker at high speed. The object hit the ship’s rail and fell into the water. A loud explosion was heard and the boat moved away.
Attacks off the coast of West Africa continue to highlight the disparity in capabilities and sophistication between criminal groups and/or pirates in the region. It is PROBABLE that attacks are carried out both on an opportunistic basis by small disenfranchised and/or criminal groups and following more careful planning by experienced groups of individuals who have adopted cargo theft (particularly oil) as a business model. The upcoming elections in Nigeria, currently scheduled for Feb 15 will bring with them a severe risk of further destabilisation and violence which will LIKELY further encourage maritime criminal and pirate groups in the Gulf of Guinea to increase activity as state resources are PROBABLY concentrated on managing and responding to terrorist and political violence. It is also POSSIBLE that some groups receive protection from the government and other candidates in the election in exchange for a percentage of the groups revenue to fund election campaigns and personal security which will PROBABLY lead to an increase in maritime crime in the lead up to and just after elections.