Ref Frio Athens was waiting for berth. How far is safely far?
Gulf of Guinea as a remix of Somalia piracy
Maritime Bulletin received a letter from a man who’s working on reefers with regular calls to Nigerian ports. He wrote, that most probably, Frio Athens (read previous news) was drifting or moving around far off the Nigerian coast in Gulf of Guinea, because it’s a wide-spread practice in there. Vessels expecting docking, or in other words, waiting in queue, prefer to wait for dock some 100-150 nautical miles off Nigerian coast, for safety reason. Most probably, that’s what took place in case of Frio Athens, because tracking shows there was, shortly after attack, one leg towards Port Harcourt – vessel approached Bonny, then turned and headed south.
In light of recent attacks the question arises as to the sufficiency of such maneuvering – vessels were attacked at distances which are considered to be safe, but seemingly, are not safe any more, see the map. It resembles the era of Somalia piracy evolvement - first, it was considered safe to sail not less than 50 miles off Somalian coast, then 150, then 300, then piracy threat spread far east, up to Indian waters, and far south, down to Madagascar.
Maybe the main problem for Nigerian pirates is not the distance, but the ways to profit from capturing the vessels far off in the open sea. They can’t, at least yet, keep the vessels in the captivity, demanding ransoms. They can either steal the cargo, or kidnap and rob the crews, and that’s what they mostly do, presently. But recent attacks pinpoint their new aspirations, they started to hunt container ships, obviously armed with all required information as to the routes and cargoes of their prey.
Let’s not forget, that the Nigerian criminals are much more sophisticated than their Somalian counterparts. They already mastered the technique to break in citadels. In South-East Asia, for example, Nigerian criminals top the rating of immigrant crime. There is little, if any, hope, that the Nigerian State is capable of curbing the piracy, even if it wants to. Just read the local media, read what the Nigerians think about their own State, how they describe their State as weak and unstable, vulnerable to civil unrest and even disintegration.
Nigerian criminals and the background of the criminality, the poverty and the unjust governing system, see their chance in the piracy, in those big floating, unprotected warehouses, full of expensive goods worth many millions. The temptation is too big to resist, technically there is no problem in attacking and hijacking vessels far off in the sea. All they have to do, from businees point of view, is to work out the ways of the most profitable utilizations of the captured vessels, cargoes and the crews. I have little doubt Nigerian pirates will work something out. What piracy is now threatening the shipping in Gulf of Guinea, is only the beginning of what is to come in near future.
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