News24

Better reporting leads to piracy spike

2012-07-18 16:59

Lagos - An increase in the number of pirate attacks recorded in the Gulf of Guinea is partly the result of better reporting in a region where maritime crimes are often not noted, a watchdog said on Wednesday.

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said in a report released this week that there were 32 piracy incidents recorded off the coasts of Benin, Nigeria and Togo in the first half of 2012, up from the 25 attacks cited in 2011.

Many of the raids involved "high levels of violence," with dozens of hostages taken, the report said

But Cyrus Mody, who tracks the region for IMB, told AFP that attributing the 2012 figures to a simple increase in attacks was partially misleading.

"There is a serious amount of under-reporting that takes place in the Gulf of Guinea, especially off of Nigeria," he said.

The reported rise in attacks may not be "an increase as such," he said, but rather the result of more accurate reporting.

The waters off West Africa have previously been identified as an emerging piracy hot spot, where vessels carrying Nigerian petroleum products have typically been targeted.

Nigeria and Benin launched joint patrols last year to address the problem.

Insurance

According to Mody, officials from the region's government have conceded to international maritime bodies that the reporting of piracy incidents is often poor.

"It's very difficult to put a finger on it," Mody said when asked why under-reporting is such a persistent issue in the region.

He speculated that there may be an effort by shipping companies to keep insurance costs low or pressure by some officials to understate the dangers of the gulf.

But under-reporting puts shipping firms coming from outside the region in a precarious position, Mody explained.

They "may have the feeling that the number of incidents is low and so are not properly prepared," he said.

Nigeria is the world's eighth largest oil producer, but the sector has been marred by decades of corruption and few people benefit from the massive revenues generated.

Piracy and the widening problem of illegal crude theft in the Niger Delta are seen by some as legitimate responses to oil graft, according to analysts.