LONDON (AFP) – Wast Africa has overtaken Somalia as the world's piracy hot-spot with 966 sailors attacked last year, a report by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said on Tuesday.
"The year 2012 marked the first time since the surge in piracy off the coast of Somalia that the reported number of both ships and seafarers attacked in the Gulf of Guinea surpassed that of the Gulf of Aden and of the western Indian Ocean," the report said.
Of the 206 hostages taken last year off West Africa, five were killed, the document said.
Despite the rising danger, the report stressed that the area "has not received the attention that was brought to Somalia," where 851 sailors were attacked last year.
The Gulf of Guinea, which includes waters off Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, has emerged as a new danger-zone with pirates typically targeting fuel cargo and loading it onto other ships to sell on the lucrative black market, rather than seeking ransom to release ships, the IMB said.
"In Nigeria, money moves quite quickly, unlike in Somalia," explained one contributor to the report document.
"In Somalia, it would take months. In Nigeria, the pirates take our (oil) cargo and the money of the (shipping) company. It would take only weeks, it is quite fast."
A French-flagged tanker was released on Monday after it was captured four days ago in the piracy-plagued waters off West Africa.
The report said that "co-operation between efforts at sea and those on land to build maritime security and provide job opportunities to potential pirates" was essential to reduce piracy levels in Somalia and West Africa.