The inland tanker MT Vajara was attacked on October 23 on the Ramos River in Nigeria. The attack was ultimately thwarted by Nigerian soldiers, but seven people died in the fire fight. Pirates are a threat to shipping companies and crew members as they attack and attempt to take over control of ships. Many incidents of pirates occur in the waters around Africa, but pirates are present in other locations as well.
In Nigeria, an oil-rich country, the piracy is connected to militant groups that say they are looking for a more fair distribution of oil revenue for all residents of the country. The industry is worth several billion dollars. These militants also claim to be seeking political autonomy and have vandalized pipelines and oil well heads to make their points.
The most recent attack occurred on a Sunday on the river close to the Niger Delta, an area known to be rich in oil and also unrest. The inland oil tanker MT Vajara was attacked by the militant pirates, but was ultimately saved by the troops from Operation Base 2, government troops. The two sides opened fire on each other and the end result was five dead pirates. No one on the crew of the tanker was hurt or killed.
The attack on the tanker came just a week after five militants were arrested for vandalizing well heads. There has been a recent increase in these kinds of attacks following an announcement by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari that amnesty for militants would be slowing down. In another recent attack, seven pirates were killed by troops. The pirates had taken hostages, but these people were released unharmed.
The government is attempting to initiate talks with groups that are attack oil fields and ships. The attacks are sometimes successful and the result is major losses to oil output and revenues for the country. One group known to have previously attacked oil well heads and committed piracy on oil tankers, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, has stated that it is willing and ready to talk and negotiate. Talks are expected to begin in late October.
Piracy is a real and serious problem in the maritime industry, in Africa, but also elsewhere. Among the many risks that seaman working aboard all kinds of vessels, piracy is one that surprises many people. Pirates are often small, unorganized bands, but they may be, as was the case in Nigeria, part of a larger organization with either monetary or political goals.
Piracy is a threat to maritime workers because they may become victims of violence. Crew members may be taken hostage, be hurt in scuffles and fire fights, or even be killed during these incidents. Victims of pirate attacks may also suffer long-term from emotional trauma. There are many possible consequences of piracy on the high seas and victims of these vicious attacks also have rights under maritime law to be protected and to seek compensation if they are not.