West African pirates are now using motherships to stage attacks, according to an article published by Tradewinds citing a report from Bergen Risk Solutions, a risk analysis and mitigation firm specializing in oil and gas and shipping companies operating in West Africa.
According to the report, at least four staging vessels, or motherships, were used to aid attacks on ships and oil rigs in the first quarter of 2012 off the coast of Nigeria.
Specifically, Bergen notes a January attack on a bulk carrier approximately 290nm off the coast of Lagos, the farthest noted attack on a vessel since bergen began conducting assessments in the area in 2007.
Container ship underway on 9 January near position 03:00N – 007:28E, approximately 85 nm south of Bonny Island, Nigeria, was chased and fired upon by eight pirates armed with AK47s in a single skiff launched from a nearby from a fishing trawler. The Master increased speed, took evasive maneuvers, and crew mustered in the citadel, prompting the pirates to abort the attack and move away. via gCaptain Piracy Update
Most recently, on March 22, a Nigerian flag chemical tanker 80 nm south of Brass was attacked by a speedboat deployed from a fishing vessel.
NIGERIA: Chemical Tanker was chased on 22 March 100nm SW off Bonny Island, Nigeria at position 02:57 N – 006:12 E. Armed pirates in two boats chased a chemical tanker. The Master raised the alarm and sent a SSAS alert and instructed the crew to proceed to the safe room. A US warship responded to the alert and offered assistance. The pirates later aborted and left. via Captain Piracy Update
As we have mentioned in the past, West African pirates operate much differently than their Somali counterparts, typically opting for snatch-n-grab items or a vessel’s cargo, rather than holding vessels and crews for ransom, and also not venturing too far from shore. But despite these differences, the use of motherships by west African pirates is certainly alarming in more ways than one.