Seasonal weather remains key to explaining frequency of Nigerian piracy


Piracy is highly dependent on weather and sea conditions, with high waves and strong winds hindering navigation—particularly for small crafts that run an elevated risk of capsizing. According to BMP4 guidelines, it becomes more difficult to operate small vessels effectively in sea states of three and above as waves reach heights exceeding 0.5m. Since pirates predominantly operate on speedboats and skiffs, regional weather patterns are of particular relevance to the timing, incidence rate and location of piracy.

The Nigerian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is primarily affected by two seasons: the rainy season (May to October) and the dry season (November to April). The rainy season is characterised by heavy rain that creates difficult sailing conditions offshore. Conversely, the dry season is much more favourable to offshore piracy as visibility improves and it becomes easier to operate vessels. It can be expected that as the Nigerian dry season progresses in 2018, piracy groups will continue to shift their attention from the creeks and waterways of the Niger Delta to commercial vessels transiting within the Nigerian EEZ.

This assessment is supported by NYA24 data from May 2014 to October 2017. Figure 1 illustrates the relationship between the Nigerian seasons and the overall incidence rate of piracy. As can be expected, the favourable sea and weather conditions of the dry season are accompanied by an increase in the number of piracy incidents. During the rainy season, on the other hand, levels of piracy consistently decrease as strong winds and large waves dissuade pirate groups from operating further offshore.

Figure 1: Recorded piracy incidents in Nigeria’s EEZ May 2014 – October 2017
Source: NYA24

Accordingly, piracy group activity in the Nigerian EEZ saw a resurgence approaching the 2017 dry season and NYA24 recorded a 50% rise in incidents during the seasonal transition period from October to November. So far, there have been twelve ‘significant’ incidents (comprising attacks, boardings, hijackings and Pirate Action Group sightings) in the dry season, compared to a total of nine through the entire of 2017’s rainy season. The offshore incident rate in the EEZ is likely to remain consistent until March 2018, before gradually decreasing as the rainy season begins. Nevertheless, the piracy threat in the Gulf of Guinea is assessed as severe by NYA24, and vessels transiting this area are advised to remain vigilant and follow BMP4 guidelines.

NYA24 combines the latest technology in tracking and threat monitoring with expert analysis – helping NYA’s clients understand the threats to their people, information, property and reputation. The NYA24 analyst team continously monitors for maritime security incidents around the world using a variety of open-source and privileged information sources.


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