navy boosts camera surveillance against pirates
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[December 20, 2013]
By Tife Owolabi
YENAGOA, Nigeria (Reuters) — Nigeria's
navy has installed eight automated, camera-equipped surveillance towers
in the waters just off its coast, in an effort to tackle a surge in
pirate attacks and crude oil theft that have blighted Africa's top
energy producer this year.
Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba told journalists
late on Thursday that the equipment, most of it from Japan's Furuno
and costing roughly $12 million in total, had high-frequency radio
and long-range cameras able to spot ships up to 48 km (30 miles)
Pirate attacks off Nigeria have jumped by a third this year as ships
passing through West Africa's Gulf of Guinea, a major commodities
route, have come under threat from gangs seeking to snatch cargoes
or hold crews for ransom.
Oil theft in the Niger Delta has also seen a relentless rise,
although analysts say this has only been possible because of
collusion by the security forces.
The data the towers collect is beamed to a central naval
intelligence room and then checked against ships' registration, flag
and other information, Ezeoba said in Yenagoa, in a part of the
Niger Delta plagued by criminal gangs.
"From the domain awareness center we can see ships from anywhere in
the world coming or leaving our maritime space," he said. "It also
gives you ability to ... ascertain the actual threat the vessel
Four are in Lagos, one each at the Bonny and Brass crude export
terminals, one in Yenagoa and one in Ibaka, in eastern Akwa Ibom
But he added that Nigeria still needed to work on its capacity to
pursue pirates and other criminal gangs.
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Nigeria's navy has had two successes against pirates this year — it
captured four off the coast of the main commercial hub of Lagos in
mid-August and said it killed 12 pirates in a shootout a week
But it has had little luck stemming this lucrative enterprise, which
remains on the rise and has driven up insurance costs.
Unlike the waters off Somalia on the east African coast, where boats
now have armed guards on board, there is scant protection for the
many ships which anchor off West Africa.
(Reporting by Tife Owolabi; writing by Tim Cocks;
editing by Mark Trevelyan)
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