Pirate attacks off West Africa witnessed a dangerous increase in the first quarter of 2012, the International Maritime Bureau says.
It also warns the threat of piracy off Somalia has not been diluted despite a dip in activity in the region.
Ten attacks occurred off Nigeria in the first three months of this year, equal to the number seen in the whole of 2011, the watchdog reports. A further hit of Benin was also attributed to a Nigerian gang.
The tally includes two hijackings which involved the holding of 42 crew members, according to a report issued late last week.
Pottengal Mukundan, director of the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre, said: “Nigerian piracy is increasing in incidence and extending in range.
“At least six of the 11 reported incidents in Nigeria occurred at distances greater than 70 nautical miles from the coast, which suggests that fishing vessels are being used as motherships to attack shipping further afield.”
Mukundan, pointing to an attack on a bulk carrier in which two were killed, notes while the number of reported incidents in Nigeria is still less than Somalia the level of violence against crew is “dangerously high”.
Figures show the number of attacks of Somalia fell but the IMB warns the threat is still significant.
In the first three months of 2012 43 hits were attributed to Somali pirates, while nine vessels were hijacked and 144 crew members were taken hostage.
“While the number of 2012 incidents and hijackings are less than reports for the same period in 2011 (97 incidents, 16 hijackings), it is unlikely that the threat of Somali piracy will diminish in the short to medium term unless further actions are taken,” the report said.
In total 102 attacks were counted in the quarter globally, down from 142 incidents a year ago.