Pirate Fight Needs Private Might off Nigeria, Maritime Firm Says

Nigeria needs to review its maritime security rules and enlist the support of private companies to tackle rampant piracy in its waters, according to a report published on Wednesday.

The seas off the West African country’s coast are the most perilous in the world for seafarers, accounting for almost all kidnappings by pirates in recent years. Nigeria’s government doesn’t allow private armed guards on ships, leaving them reliant on escorts by licensed boats manned by naval personnel.

“Seafarers’ lives are at risk from ever-increasing violent attacks and Nigerian pirates are operating with increased impunity,” according to the report by maritime intelligence company Dryad Global. “Nigeria must strike a balance between restrictions for the sake of national security and creating space for third-party security providers to complement the Nigerian navy’s security activities in support of commercial operations.”

While London-based Dryad credited Nigeria’s government for being the region’s front-runner in combating piracy, and said its planned deployment of $195 million’s worth of aircraft, boats and vehicles should bolster its response, it warned that it couldn’t address the scourge on its own.

Nigerian authorities are opposed to allowing ships in the nation’s waters to carry weapons even if they are in transit, claiming recent investment in equipment and training will phase out the need for private security providers.

Nigeria’s waters are in the center of the Gulf of Guinea, a vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean stretching from Senegal to Angola that is the source of ever-greater anxiety for shipowners, operators and their crews. Last year, the region accounted for 95% of the 135 seafarers seized worldwide in 22 separate incidents, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

Dryad also criticized Nigeria’s implementation of a law, the first of its kind in the Gulf of Guinea, that was adopted in 2019 to punish pirates with heavy sentences. The only people prosecuted so far under the legislation were from a private company involved in handing over a ransom payment, the report said.

The “government appears more focused on holding the commercial balance of power over third-party security providers than combating piracy,” it said.

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