The ICC International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Centre recommends extreme vigilance aboard ships in West African waters.
Since mid-August three vessels have been hijacked by pirates in this region. These recent attacks are notable as they have all been against tankers, with the purpose of stealing the valuable cargoes on board. Furthermore, the incidents reported off West Africa are characterised by the degree of violence used against crew.
On 18 August 2012, a tanker was hijacked whilst at anchorage off Lome. Another tanker was attacked nearby on 28 August 2012. On 5 September 2012, a tanker was boarded whilst at anchorage off Lagos. In the last case, the crew secured themselves in the vessel's citadel whilst the Nigerian navy despatched a helicopter and warship to successfully rescue the vessel.
IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan commented: "The attacks off West Africa follow a different modus operandi from pirate activity in other parts of the world. In addition to armed robbery, the more serious attacks involve the hijacking of product tankers to steal a part of the cargo. All the attacks usually involve high levels of violence against the crew. After the hijacking the product is lightered on to smaller vessel to be taken and sold illegally in the region. There has long been a market for the distribution and supply of these illegal oil cargoes."
Up to 5 September 2012, there have been 40 reported attacks on vessels in the Gulf of Guinea, with 19 vessels boarded and eight successfully hijacked. In total, 168 crew members have been taken hostage and two have lost their lives.
The IMB-PRC recommends vigilance to all vessels operating in this region and urges the prompt report of any suspicious activity.