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Pirates step up attacks on shipping off Nigerian coast

Lookouts posted between passengers on the Queen Mary 2 scan the horizon in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia for pirates, Jan. 24, 2013. The Nigerian coastline is second only to the waters off Somalia for the risk of pirate attacks, which drives up shipping and oil industry costs.

STRINGER/REUTERS

Pirates attacked three vessels off the coast of Nigeria in the space of eight days this month, killing one person, a maritime agency said, in a sign of worsening security off the coast of Africa's biggest oil exporter.

Gunmen killed a crew member when they attacked a chemical tanker carrying out a ship-to-ship transfer at Lagos port on Feb. 4 before a security team repelled the attackers, piracy watchdog the International Maritime Agency said in a report.

The tanker was the Dubai-managed Pyxis Delta and the crew member killed was a Filipino, security firm AKE said. The Nigerian navy declined to comment on the attack.

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Piracy off the Nigerian coast and elsewhere in the Gulf of Guinea is on the rise. The coastline, rich in natural resources such as cocoa and metals, is second only to the waters off Somalia for the risk of pirate attacks, which drives up shipping and oil industry costs.

"Armed attacks off Lagos occur less frequently than in the south of the country but the high levels of violence are common to incidents of maritime criminality off Nigeria as a whole," AKE said in a report.

"Further cases of tanker hijacking should be expected across the Gulf of Guinea in the coming weeks as black market demand for fuel in Nigeria remains strong."

Pirates made away with cargo after they boarded a ship off the oil-producing Brass coastline in southern Nigeria on Feb. 7, and on Monday gunmen on a speedboat fired on a vessel off Bonny in the Niger Delta but were unable to board, the IMB said.

There are also growing concerns about the onshore creeks of the Niger Delta, where oil theft and kidnapping is rife.

Gunmen ambushed an Indian-owned oil barge last week as it was being escorted by the military through the Delta, killing two soldiers and one crew member on the ship.

Nigeria is a busy oil shipping route. The West African country is among the world's top 10 crude oil exporters and imports around 80 per cent of the fuel products needed for its 160 million people due to a lack of domestic refining capacity.

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