…Minister says Govt. exploring new solutions to rising piracy attacks***
The Federal Government may be disturbed by soaring incidents of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, particularly with as many as three hijackings taking place in the Gulf within just seven days.
The latest in the long list of hijackings was the Togo-flagged bunkering vessel Stelios K, with reports indicating that the ship was boarded and hijacked while it was en route to Lagos.
Industry watchers relying on FleetMon’s Historical Track feature noted that the latest occurrence some four days ago showcases, that not only was the zone becoming deadly, certain areas were also becoming extremely dangerous, especially some locations, towards Central Guinea.
Sweretakeholders, including those on the side of Government, were particularly disturbed, that the vessel took evasive auctions including two sharp turns off its course before it slowed from 6.7 kn to 0.4 kn; meaning the pirates actually overwhelmed it and eventually stopped it, boarded it, before the AIS signal was turned off.
More disturbing was the fact that nobody has been able to offer both the vessel and its crew any noteworthy assistance, since then, even as the Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade – Gulf of Guinea (MDAT-GoG), continues to affirm that the attackers were still onboard.
“This could only mean one thing, that the perpetrators potentially sought options for either offloading or selling refined products that may be on board”, MDAT-GoG noted further, further amplifying why more vessels coming now to the Gulf of Guinea, may subsequently hike fares, including insurance covers.
The Gulf of Guinea saw a sharp increase in incidents last week, including two successful kidnappings within three days. They include pirates kidnapping five crew from the Ghanaian-flagged general cargo vessel AM Delta off South Brass, and 14 crew from the Liberian-flagged Heavy Load carrier Zhen Hua 7 off Sao Tome.
The potential for high profits—along with high unemployment along the coast, weak security and a lack of judicial enforcement of maritime laws in many West African countries—makes the Gulf of Guinea especially attractive for pirates and other criminals.
Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea continues to be a concern to the shipping industry, which is affected significantly. All the same, the regional governments agree to the fact that the fight against piracy requires a detailed knowledge of maritime security and laws in and around the Gulf of Guinea.
It would be sadly recalled that the late IMO Consultant, the late Capt. Solomon Omoteso had harped several times, while alive, that until African governments provided jobs for its teaming youths on lands, the risky desire to pursue piracy with its deadly consequences, would remain a remarkable attraction!
In the meantime, the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, on Thursday said that the government was addressing the issue of pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea.
Amaechi made this known during an assessment visit to verify the status of maritime assets of the Deep Blue Project in Lagos.
He was accompanied by the Minister of Defence, retired Maj.-Gen. Bashir Magashi; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Adm. Ibok Ete Ibas; and the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Bashir Jamoh.
The Deep Blue Project, also called the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, is a maritime security project.
It aims to comprehensively tackle insecurity in Nigeria’s territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone, up to the Gulf of Guinea.
According to the minister, no matter how embarrassing the situation is in the area, the most important thing is that government is addressing it.
“We have men who are determined to make things work and it will work,” he said, even as some of his audience remained neither unamused, nor unmoved.
He said that the deployment of the Deep Blue project assets would commence by first quarter of next year, a remark which industry watchers implied to mean that the pirates now have field days, till next year!
The minister said that while 80 percent of the assets had been delivered, the aircrafts have yet to arrive in the country.
“Every other thing has arrived and we hope to receive the helicopters by the first quarter of next year, and likewise, training of the personnel has commenced,” he said.
In his contribution, Magashi said that they had always been prepared but their coming would further increase the preparedness of the Nigerian Navy and the security of the nation’s waters.
“We have commenced training of the naval personnel that will man the equipment and we hope to complete their training by next year,” he said