Nigeria has taken delivery of the first aircraft with which the West African country will secure its coastal waters against piracy. The use of aircraft to detect and combat pirates is a crucial part of the so-called Deep Blue Project, which was launched two years ago.
The Cessna CJ3 Citation jet was landed and received at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport near the capital Lagos. Bashir Jamoh, head of the Maritime Authority and responsible for combating piracy, spoke of a ‘historic moment for the economic development of Nigeria’. A second special mission aircraft is expected shortly.
Over the past two years, Nigeria has already purchased sixteen armoured vehicles and trained 600 soldiers to carry out coastal patrols. In addition, Nigeria now has at its disposal three helicopters and four drones in the air and two special mission vessels and seventeen fast interceptor boats at sea. The latter were supplied by the Dutch company De Haas Maassluis and can reach a speed of sixty knots, more than 110 km/h.
This approach is clearly bearing fruit because, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), the number of cases of piracy in Nigerian waters has dropped dramatically. Only two incidents were reported in the first quarter of this year, compared to eleven last year, fourteen in 2019 and 22 in 2018.
Gulf of Guinea
In the Gulf of Guinea, of which Nigerian coastal waters are part, some 25 cases of kidnapping have occurred in recent years, sometimes involving entire crews. Danish researcher Katja Lindskov Jacobsen tells ShippingWatch that ship owners have paid a total of about four million dollars in ransom to free their employees.
According to Jacobsen, four to six gangs are behind the kidnappings, but tackling them will be difficult. According to Jacobsen, interviews with those involved show that the criminals have links with corrupt politicians. Nigeria has been criticised for taking too little action against piracy in recent years and for failing to bring criminals to justice.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) believes that too little is being done to stop piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. The organisation has adopted a resolution in which it calls on countries, the UN and other relevant organisations to join forces, harmonise laws and hunt down pirates and bring them to justice.
According to the IMO, in 2020, ninety ships had been attacked and 112 crew members had been kidnapped or gone missing. That is almost forty per cent of the global number of reported incidents of piracy that year. So far this year, 23 incidents have been reported in the area off the West African coast.
This article first appeared in Dutch on NT.nl, a publication of SWZ|Maritime’s publishing partner Promedia.