Again, pirates have kidnapped Americans from a shipping vessel off the coast of Africa. Two Americans were taken from the C-Retriever, a 222 foot vessel working in the Gulf of Guinea off the Nigerian Coast. The captain and chief engineer were taken Wednesday morning as the ship sailed through this West African coastal waterway. This commercial vessel, which flew the American flag, is owned by Edison Chouest Offshore (ECO) from Louisiana. The State Department is currently looking into the attack. ECO has 200 vessels from 87 feet to 360 feet, per their website. Thirteen people were aboard the ship Wednesday morning when the attack occurred. The captain and chief engineer are being held at an unknown location.
The US State Department is seeking further information and tracking these reports; the embassy in Lagos and FBI are investigating. Maritime security alerts that piracy has grown and is a problem on the west coast of Africa. In 2009, Captain Richard Phillips was taken hostage by Somalian pirates, who were later shot and killed by US Navy Seals. This successful rescue precipitated the creation of the movie Captain Phillips, released in theaters Oct 11, starting Tom Hanks as Captain Phillips.
Piracy occurs, more frequently, near shore where vessels move slower. Cyrus Mody, assistant director for the Bureau of International Maritime, concurs that incidents off of Africa’s West Coast have been growing. The looting of these ships ranges from the cash aboard in the safe, to the crews items and on up to the very cargo it carries. Pirates sometimes take the ship for 7-10 days and, occasionally, seek ransoms for the crew. Moody believes it is most likely organized crime as these pirates know the ship, cargo and functioning of such. The countries involved are trying to remedy these situations and make a plan.
The Gulf of Guinea is an anchoring haven for these ships and the US Navy does not protect these waters as heavily as where shipping lanes venture near Somalia, the East Coast of Africa, are protected.
Nigeria’s government makes billions from this area due to the Delta being rich in oil. These resources, and its wealth, are not dispersed among most Nigerians and, therefore, corruption ensues. This area is impoverished. These pirates are now gangs, armed and ready to kill people and demand ransoms. Tuesday three soldiers from Nigeria were killed in an attack, not associated with this one, as armed robbers boarded a vessel with construction workers. This criminal activity increases insurance costs to the vessels owner. After ransoms are paid, kidnapped victims are usually released.
Muslim separatists, namely Boko Haram, a militant group, has attacked a small Christian group in the area. The military units of Nigeria began a Task Force to put forth a military offensive directed at this group in addition to the piracy problems. They want to keep an organized land segment from forming so it can’t aid the pirates on the water.
The US Marine Corps does have a presence in the area for training, but its unclear yet what will be done. The US Navy works with Western African countries in their fight against trafficking of illegal items. Rates of piracy have increased in West Africa, whereas in the rest of the world it is down since 2006. Two Americans have been kidnapped and await release after ransom, or a rescue, off the Western African Coast near Nigeria.
By Kim Troike