The Menace of Sea Pirates

Nigeria Navy on patrol
Nigeria Navy on patrol

Owners of fishing trawlers want the federal government to save their business from the increasing attacks they encounter from sea pirates

|  By Pita Ochai  |  Jan. 7, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

THE price of sea foods is likely to increase soon if steps are not taken to check the increasing rate of sea pirates on the Nigerian waters. The Nigeria Fish Trawler Owners’ Association, NITOA, has raised fresh alarm over hijacks on fishing trawlers by pirates within Nigerian territorial waters. The activities of sea pirates have made fishing difficult on Nigerian waters. Consequently, some of the fishermen have abandoned their trawlers because of the insecurity.

According to John Overo, president, NITOA, the attacks on vessels on the Nigerian waters is on the increase due to inadequate security. He said that vessels belonging to his members were being attacked and their catches stolen by the pirates. “We lose colossal investments to the pirates because they also remove valuable items in the vessels, whenever they attack. They always remove the electronic gadgets on board, which include the SSB Radio, VHF Radio, Radar and Echo Sounder. Without these items navigation on the sea is impossible,” he said.

Overo described the situation as worrisome and pleaded with the government to evolve measures that could checkmate the activities of sea pirates before they escalate. To him, if the insecurity is not checked, fishing companies would relocate from the Nigerian waters to other countries that can ensure safety of their operations. Such relocation would not augur well for the economy of the country. It will not only hike the price of sea foods but also will result in the loss of revenue, foreign exchange, as well as throw more people into the labour market. He described the situation as unfortunate especially now that his members are making efforts to meet sea foods export quota and generate foreign exchange for the country.

The present insecurity on the waters is happening inspite of the joint naval operation between Nigeria and the Republic of Benin. The two countries had set up a joint naval operation code-named “Operation prosperity” to checkmate activities of pirates in the Gulf of Guinea waters.

Since May this year, there have been increasing reports of pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea and off the coast of West Africa. In response to this ugly development, the International Maritime Bureau, IMB, has rated the coastal parts bordering Lagos and the Bonny waters as one of the most piracy attack-prone areas of the world. According to the IMB reports, Nigeria and Benin Republic have recorded more than 22 incidents of piracy this year, the highest ever recorded on the West African coast.

The attacks have been aimed at oil tankers, cargo vessels, fishing trawlers, and speed boats conveying passengers from one destination to another. On October 30, suspected sea pirates reportedly attacked speed boat passengers along Nembe waterways in Bayelsa State. The pirates attacked four of the passenger speed boats which were conveying traders to Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa State. Some of the passengers were ordered by the hoodlums to jump into the water after being dispossessed of their cash and other valuables.

On July 24, M.V RBD ANEMA E CORE, an Italian-owned tanker with 108,958 dead weight, dwt, and 23 crew members on board was hijacked by sea pirates off the coast of Benin, just outside the Nigerian waters. The tanker was, however, released four days later. On July 16, it was also reported that AEGEAN STAR, another tanker, was also attacked and hijacked by sea pirates and later abandoned.

In the first week of November, gunmen boarded MT Halifax, an oil tanker, which anchored off the coast of Port Harcourt. The pirates hijacked the ship and sailed off into the waters of the Gulf of Guinea with the crew until the crude oil in the ship was offloaded.

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