Pirates off the coast of Nigeria have attacked a cargo ship and have killed its captain and chief engineer during the assault. Officials and the maritime community have a growing concern that these waters are becoming increasingly dangerous for shippers. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) also reports another ship attack and a tanker hijacking in the area within the last four days.
The most recent attack occurred about 126 miles from Lagos, Nigeria’s coast. Lagos is also home to the nation’s largest shipping port. A monitoring group reported that those onboard the cargo ship, which has not yet been identified, escaped into a safe room as a gunfight broke out. Those on the bridge remained at their posts, according to witnesses. The captain and chief engineer died from gunshot wounds that came from the pirates.
The IMB has not yet received additional information regarding the ship or its crew, although Nigerian authorities have been contacted. No comments from Nigeria’s navy or the country’s maritime safety agency have been made either.
These attacks are just the latest to aim at West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea which flows from Liberia to Gabon. Piracy in this area has recently escalated to low-intensity robberies to hijackings and cargo theft. Nigeria has also recently been categorized in the same risk bracket as Somalia where piracy flourishes. West African pirates are believed to be more likely to use violence in their robberies, as they target the cargo and not the crew for kidnapping ransoms like Somali pirates.
Many analysts state that recent hijacking, especially of tankers, is most likely the work of a single criminal gang with immense knowledge of the oil and tanker industry. Participants in these hijacking may have gotten their knowledge from Nigeria’s southern Niger Delta, where criminals tap pipelines in order to steal hundreds of thousands barrels of oil daily.