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NIGER DELTA: A five percent overall decline in maritime piracy last year is being outweighed by a 30 percent rise in incidents in the Gulf of Guinea says analysts Control Risks.

The company notes that while the number of incidents in the Horn of Africa continues to decline, ongoing violent unrest and instability onshore in Somalia means that the risk of a flare-up is quite likely if ship security levels drop or naval forces draw down.

On the other side of the continent Control Risks says that while the number of product tanker hijacks decreased by 12.5 percent, last year also saw criminal groups continue to expand their operational area south of Nigeria for the first time.

Gulf of GuineaKidnapping-for-ransom off the Niger Delta region rose 355 percent year-on-year and the company says while there have been some improvements in security measures, local navies still have a limited capability and the region lacks a centralised reporting and coordination centre to assist vessels under attack and coordinate a naval response.

According to the International Piracy Reporting Centre, the number of Nigerian piracy attacks is at its highest level since 2008. Nigerian pirates accounted for 31 of the 51 attacks reported in the region in 2013, and West Africa as a whole made up 19 percent of attacks worldwide last year.

Tom Patterson, head of Control Risks' Maritime Risk Analysis department commented: "The centre of maritime piracy has been shifting west for a number of years, and the decline in activity off East Africa in 2013 has seen the Gulf of Guinea emerge as the global hotspot for maritime crime. But although piracy continues to dominate the headlines, further key factors such as port and anchorage crime, domestic instability and civil unrest, political violence, territorial disputes and migration can pose a similar level of reputational, operational and security risk for the shipping and offshore oil and gas industry."

In its latest maritime risk report, the company notes five factors affecting security this year: Petty theft and robbery on board vessels, particularly in south-east Asia; domestic instability and civil unrest as a risk catalyst to key arteries of trade, including the Suez Canal; political violence highlighted by the opportunistic rocket-propelled grenade attack on the COSCO Asia in the Suez Canal last year; territorial disputes particularly to oil and gas companies; and migration - where domestic instability and civil conflict can lead to stowaways.

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