Modern day pirates are individuals to be feared. Organized gangs out at sea are doing far more damage than one would think when they hear the term "pirate." According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) over the last few years the number of attacks has significantly been on the rise. The IMB reports that in 2012 there were a total of 966 seafarers attacked in West Africa alone--an all-time high across the globe. These numbers far surpassed that of East Africa, which was once believed to be the most feared location for pirate attacks. In this report, the IMB also notes that out of the 966 victims attacked in West Africa, 206 of them lost their lives.
As stated, the attacks in West Africa far surpassed the East in last year's statistics as there were only 851 people off of the Somali coast. The numbers, however, are not the only thing that differ the attacks from that of the Nigerians. Many reports show that the Somali pirates often will attack and hijack a ship in order to ransom their captives for money. Once they obtain their fees they would generally let the people go after severe beatings, though not always.
What the IMB is seeing for cases in Nigeria is that they are using more violence than ever and implementing extreme tactics in order to obtain their money and stolen goods. The seas that were once deemed as the highest threat are now paling in comparison to that of the Gulf of Guinea. One senior researcher from the South Africa's Institute for Security Studies, claims that much of the piracy in Somali is comprised of fisherman looking to have a better life. Whereas, in Nigeria, it is a group of criminally minded people who want to take the government's wealth.
The Gulf of Guinea is difficult to truly define, though its shores touch nearly a dozen counties across the Atlantic Ocean, including Nigeria. This particular area of the world is attractive for those in the maritime industry, as it is as a hub for mineral and marine resources. Here one could locate oil reserves, diamonds, and gold, as well as fish.
The GG currently contains 50.4 billion barrels of oil in its reserves and is producing an estimated 5.4 million barrels per day. The oil reserves are so significant that researchers assume by the year of 2020 nearly one quarter of the world's oil production will come from the GG. Today, the United States purchases 15% of their oil supplies from the GG, though it is presumed in the near future this number will increase to 25% of the U.S. supplies.
Over the past decade, the threat of maritime piracy has increased at a rapid rate and is likely to be deemed more dangerous now than ever. Largely due to the oil industry expansion in the region, maritime attacks have continued to surge in both size and number throughout of the Gulf.
Nigeria Delta oil reserves are said to generate 80% of the Nigerian federal government annual revenue and yet the country is still defined by unemployment and poverty. Much of the increase in piracy is believed to be a response to the corruptions of the government and the lack of ability for the people to participate in the economy for legitimate working opportunities.
As the job market diminishes, people are seeking to take matters into their own hands, one of the ways being through piracy. Piracy has involved attacks on both oil and cargo ships as well as fishing boats, and at times going as far as kidnapping for ransom payments. According to a report by a Denmark-based security firm, pirates have stolen 117,000 tons of oil products valued at $100 million since 2010.
Despite the efforts of those in the maritime industry, governments are finding their improvements to security are not matching up to the efforts of the pirates. The IMB claims that as the industry becomes more advanced in security, the pirate gangs are becoming more sophisticated in their approach to attack vessels at higher risk values. It is likely that transnational mafia has much to do with the organization of these pirate attacks, providing the people with the exact coordinates and courses that the ships will be taking, making it easier to catch their targets.
These organizations are highly trained in the oil industry and are knowledgeable of everything from cargo on board to the kind of insurance a ship holds. On average when there is a kidnapping, Nigerian pirates will hold the people for about 10 days as opposed to the average six months seen in Somali kidnappings. As a clear result of the booming industry, the vessels are considered to be of higher value and therefore greater targets for attack.
Having more ships like this on the sea poses an extremely dangerous threat to the maritime security of the region. Though the Nigerian government is doing whatever they can to address this growing concern, they admit they do not have enough capacity to respond to the vast number of criminal activity that take place on their seas.
Maritime attorneys at Arnold & Itkin have represented those who have been victims of these dreadful attacks. One case involved two American seaman who were badly beaten by pirates after their ship was run down. The two workers were employed by a Louisiana-based company and despite continuous reports to the company regarding pirate threats and bad engine repairs, the company did not take any active measures to help their employees. Due to the company's neglect, they were badly beaten and lost the cargo of the vessel.
The second case involved two foreign sea workers who were kidnapped by pirates and taken on to the shores of Africa and held for ransom. During their captivity, these victims were badly beaten, though they were eventually released. They experienced a similar situation with their employers who knew about the pending threats and danger and failed to act for the safety of their workers.
If you or someone you know has experienced a pirate attack off the shores of Nigeria, Somali, or any other location in the world, you do not have to go without hope. In our past cases, our clients were victims of attacks because of the negligence on their company's behalf. Had their maritime employers enlisted all efforts to care and protect their workers at sea, the attacks and beatings may have never occurred. If you would like to learn more about maritime piracy, or how to pursue a legal claim against your employer after an attack, contact our team at Arnold & Itkin.
With extensive experience in the maritime industry, we will do whatever we can to help you.
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