- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.
I wrote at the end of last year about increasing rates of piracy in West Africa, even as international naval cooperation has increasingly succeeded in combating the better-known pirates off the Somali coast. According to the International Maritime Bureau’s new numbers, that trend seems to be continuing in 2012. Worldwide, pirate attacks are down, driven largely by a drop in attacks off Somalia to 9 in the first six months of this year from 163 a year earlier, but things don’t look quite as promising on the West Coast:
The decline in Somali piracy, however, has been offset by an increase of attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, where 32 incidents, including five hijackings, were reported in 2012, versus 25 in 2011. In Nigeria alone there were 17 reports, compared to six in 2011. Togo reported five incidents including a hijacking, compared to no incidents during the same time last year.
The IMB report emphasized that high levels of violence were also being used against crew members in the Gulf of Guinea. Guns were reported in at least 20 of the 32 incidents. At least one crew member was killed and another later died as a result of an attack.
In Nigeria, three vessels and 61 crew members were taken hostage. Seven vessels were boarded, six fired upon and one attempted attack was reported. The report further showed that attacks by armed pirates in skiffs were occurring at greater distances from the coast, suggesting the possible use of fishing or other vessels to reach targets. On 30 June 2012 alone, three vessels were fired upon, including a tanker and a container vessel within a five-minute period, approximately 135 nautical miles from Port Harcourt.
The increase in pirate activity off Togo has also been attributed to Nigerian pirates. The five reported incidents all occurred in April, culminating with the hijacking of a Panamax product tanker by the month’s end.
Attacks are up in Indonesia as well.