Pirates have attacked again, kidnapping two US citizens from an oil supply vessel. This incident adds to mounting evidence that illustrates the dangers faced by oil and gas workers offshore West Africa. And it should serve as reason to hasten worldwide efforts to combat piracy. The attack happened last week off the Nigerian coast aboard the US-flagged C-Retriever supply vessel owned by Louisiana-based Offshore Service Vessels, an affiliate of the Edison Chouest Offshore marine transport group. A Nigerian militant group has been in contact with US citizens’ captors, according to a Bloomberg report. “The Americans will not be handed over for our direct custody, but we will have the influence to visit them and ensure that they are well looked after before their subsequent release,” Jomo Gbomo, the spokesman of Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), said in the statement. The US State Department did not have much to say about the situation during its daily press briefing Oct. 25. When asked for an update, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the US is aware that two US citizens were kidnapped from a US-flagged vessel. “We continue to seek additional information about the incident. We’re not going to outline details publicly, in part because our primary concern is the rapid return of these two citizens. And we’re continuing to coordinate with appropriate parties.” She added that the US officials are “in touch on the ground with our Nigerian colleagues through diplomatic channels.” Reuters reported that pirate attacks offshore Nigeria have increased by a third in 2013, mainly in the Gulf of Guinea area, considered a major commodities route. Earlier this year, the research and consulting firm Global Data predicted the Gulf of Guinea would be the site of more piracy and hijacking incidents as armed pirates search for crude oil and refined products, metals, and other items. Some of the ships are too large to be moved into port, making them easy targets offshore for pirates, Global Data said. As of Oct. 22, there were 206 reported piracy incidents worldwide including 11 hijackings this year, according to the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB), the UK-based anti-crime arm of the International Chamber of Commerce. Of these incidents, 30 were in Nigeria and 11 were in Somali, which has experienced a drop in piracy attacks thanks to unified efforts along with a heightened military presence, armed guards aboard vessels, and better intelligence. The anti-piracy efforts also included more than 80 countries, international organizations, and industry groups working as part of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia formed in 2009. Hopefully, similar efforts can be replicated offshore Nigeria. The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre’s efforts to combat piracy include broadcasts of piracy and armed robbery incidents to ships via the InMARSAT Safety Net System, a piracy map, warnings, advice, a reporting system, and a 24-hour anti-piracy helpline among other offerings. The recent release of a movie based on the 2009 hijacking of the Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates also could put the spotlight on piracy and the need to find solutions. The movie, called “Captain Phillips,” stars Tom Hanks. Contact the author, Velda Addison, at email@example.com.
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