Nigeria: Crisis warning as pirate attacks reach Somali levels

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The Independent Online

Pirate attacks off West Africa's coast have increased to levels that rival those seen in Somalia, insurers say, prompting maritime agencies to discuss setting aside their rivalries to fight the rising threat.

The International Maritime Bureau says Nigeria and Benin reported 18 pirate attacks in the first half of 2011. Analysts say the number of attacks off Nigerian waters is under-reported because some ships carry illegal oil cargo and others fear their insurance rates will rise. "I believe we are nearly at a crisis here and if it's a crisis, there has to be action," said Rear Admiral Kenneth J Norton, deputy chief of staff for strategy, resources and plans for US Naval Forces Europe-Africa.

Western nations have an anti-piracy armada patrolling the waters off East Africa, but there is no West African counterpart. "Instead of interagency co-operation, what we have been getting is interagency rivalry," said Captain D O Labinjo, who represents a Nigerian ship owners' association.