By Stephen Ubanna
Those who think that Piracy and sea robbery activities have returned into the Nigerian maritime domain and the Gulf of Guinea, GoG, because of the recent killings of four Pirates and subsequent capturing of four others, by the Danish frigate , Esbern Snare on Patrol, may have to do a rethink .
This is because of the tight security mounted in the region by Bashir Jamoh led, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASASA, in Collaboration with the support of the Nigerian Navy, under the close watch of Awwal Zubairu Gambo, a Vice Admiral and other relevant security agencies including Air Marshall Olayinka Oladayo Amao, led Nigerian Air Force, NAF.
With the delivery of the $195 million Deep Blue Project, security assets which include 16 armoured vehicles for Coastal Patrol, 17 Fast Interceptor Boats, and two Special Mission vessels, two Special Mission Aircrafts for Surveillance operations of Nigerian Exclusive Economic Zone, EEZ, three Special Mission Helicopters used for Search and Rescue operations and four armoured vehicle by the Israeli , security firm, by the Israeli security fir, HLSI Security Systems and Technologies Ltd, may have encouraged the Maritime Regulatory agency to take the battle to the Pirates and sea robbers camp in Nigerian waters and the GoG, region.
This may have forced many of the pirates and sea robbers, to relocate to the West African country of Ghana and the Central African country of Gabon, waters, to carry out their nefarious activities of attack on Merchant ships and kidnap Crew members to Negotiate for ransom for their release.
The intensified security efforts in the region appear to have reduced considerably Piracy and sea robbery incidents to 28 in the first nine months of this 2021, compared to 46 in the same period in 2020, as reported by the International Maritime Bureau, IMB.
The North American country of the United States, US, Italian, Spsanish and Portuguese Navies were said to have sent assistance , ships, and training Forces over the past year to support the navies of countries around the region to tackle piracy after a record of 130 Seafarers were said to have been taken from vessels in 2020, alone. There is no gain saying the fact that region for years had remained piracy hot spot’ but Nigeria had shouldered the responsibility of battling the pirates and sea thieves alone.
Last March, the Danish government had announced plans to deploy a frigate to escort Merchant vessels in the GOG region to prevent Pirates attacks. The Danish government may have taken the decision following calls by the country’s shipping Community ‘’to take action against Pirates attack in the region’’.
Industry sources told The Value News that an average of 40 Danish Merchant ships sail through the region, daily, and the majority, belong to the Copenhagen – based Maersk, believed to be the largest shipping company in the world. The Danish government may not wanted to give room to the Pirates or the sea robbers operating in the GoG region to attack any of the country’s Merchant ships without stiff resistance. This may have informed why the Royal Danish Frigate, HDMS Esbern Snare, f342, a patrol ship, had engaged the Pirates, on Wednesday, November 24, 2021, during an anti-piracy deployment in the Gulf region, off Nigeria coast, allegedly killing four of the pirates and capturing four others.
According to informed security sources, the ship which was responding to reports of pirates activity in the region and had subsequently headed to the location. It was said to have sent out it’s embarked Danish Air Force MH-60R helicopter in advance to carry out a Surveillance of the area.
The helicopter was said to have sighted a speed motor –boat with eight persons on board around the vicinity of the Merchant ships in the region. The Pilot was said to have found out that the boat was carrying a number of piracy –associated tools, including ladders.
The Magazine learnt that towards the evening, the ship, Esbern Snare was close enough to the pirates to Launch rigid –hulled inflatable Boat , RHIBs, carrying Danish Naval Special Forces personnel . The Danish Naval personnel were said to have called on the Boat captain to halt and permit boarding.
The Captain of the boat may have refused to respond to the call from the Danish frigate Crew to halt, forcing the Naval personnel to fire a warning shot. In apparent response to the warning shot, the Pirates were said to have fired directly at the Danish Naval personnel in the RHIBs, thus, resulting exchange of bullet with five of the pirates being hit But four of tHE pirates were said to have died instantly leaving out one who was wounded.
The motor Boat was said to have sank after the brief gun dual and the surviving four pirates and the bodies of the dead pirates were said to have been taken aboard the frigate, where the wounded pirate, was said to have been given medical treatment.
Mette Frederksen, the Danish Prime Minister, had said that the Naval intervention prevented the pirates from carrying out their attack on the Merchant ships in the region. Separately, Frederiksen, the Danish Prime Minister and Jackob Elleman, an Opposition Lawmaker, were said to have both planned to visit the Frigate during a visit to Ghana on Wednesday and Thursday, November 25, 2021, meaning that that the pirates may not have been Nigerians as alleged.
The visit was cancelled , according to a Ghanaian Embassy official in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory., FCT. They were said not to be on board during the incident , which the Danish Prime Minister said was likely ‘’ ”to have averted the Pirates attack on the Merchant Navy shipss in the Gulf region’’.
The Ship ,Esbern Snare was said to have left Denmark from the Frederkss-havn, Naval Base on October 24, 2021, and arrived the Gulf of Guinea region in early November , 2021, to start its operation , expected to terminate in April, 2022. The ship was said to have arrived the region with a total of 75 personnel, including military police, Naval Special Forces and an expanded Medical Team.
The Danish Frigate, it was gathered , going by the mandate given to the Naval personnel and the military Police, are expected to carry out capacity –building activities with some of the West and Central African countries around the region including Ghana.
Meanwhile, Jamoh, the NIMASA, Director General, had met with Sune Kroggstrup, the Danish Ambassador to Nigeria, on the reported killing of four Pirates in the GoG region by the country’s Patrol ship, frigate. The NIMASA Director General may have considered it necessary to meet with the Danish Ambassador over the reported killings because it had occurred in the International waters 25 to 30 nautical miles south of the Nigerian maritime do
The agency Director Generamay have taken advantage of the opportunity provided meeting, to assure the Ambassador, that there was no cause for alarm, as’’ all the industry stakeholders were interacting on a regular basis to discuss on how to ensure total security in the region”.
He was said to made it clear to the Danish Ambassador that’’the agency will not relent in its efforts and Collaboration with other security agencies, personnel, ’’to ensure that the Gulf of Guinea region remains a safe place for ocean going vessels and their Crew’’. He was emphatic: Let me assure you that NIMASA is in contact with the Nigerian Navy and other relevant actors, to ensure a total de-confliction, not only in the Nigerian waters but the entire Gulf of Guinea region.
Many had expected that the NIMASA Chief Executive Officer, CEO, should have taken advantage of the opportunity provided by the maritime Diplomatic meeting to solicit for the release of the bodies of the four killed Pirates and the other four suspects that were Captured to the agency to face the wrath of the Law, under the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences, SPOMO, Act. Of 2019, if they were really Nigerians.
The NIMASA boss may have known that this kind of thing may happen in the region in the future that he has started canvassing for ”uniformity of Law among the countries that border the International waters in order to prosecute any suspect caught in any member country.
There are indications that the Denmark’s inter-ministerial working Group are currently handling the issue of the Royal Dutch Frigate operation in the Gulf of the Guinea, which had resulted into four deaths and the arrest of four other pirates in order ”to determine what will happen next to the pirates”.
This may have informed why Jamoh , the NIMASA helmsman had said that the agency will ‘’update the public with necessary information as the situation unfolds and the facts become available’’.