Ransoms of up to $400,000 (£273,000) have been paid to gangs which hijacked ships in the Gulf of Guinea in 2015, a maritime report has said.
The region was the most dangerous in the world for seafarers, with pirates becoming more violent, it added.
A total of 32 seafarers had been kidnapped so far this year compared to 15 in 2015, the report said.
Kidnapping for ransom took place mainly in the oil-producing areas off Nigeria’s coast, it added.
The spike in kidnappings appeared to be linked to political developments in Nigeria, the report by the United States-based group Oceans Beyond Piracy group said.
There had also been a sharp drop in oil theft last year, which the report put down to improved patrolling of Nigeria’s waters, and the fall in oil prices making it less profitable.
“In most kidnapping incidents the pirates board the vessel after firing at the bridge to suppress any opposition and intimidate the crew, and then proceed to isolate the ranking officers and engineers, who net the highest ransoms,” the BBC quoted the report as saying on Tuesday.
“Time permitting, the pirates loot the vessel as well, sometimes spending a few hours aboard. They then escape with the three or four crew members who will be held onshore during negotiations.”
In most cases, victims were held on small islands in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region.
“The same pirate gangs responsible for these attacks are likely the same groups responsible for kidnapping and violence in the Niger Delta,” the report said.
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