Pirates have attacked a ship off the coast of Nigeria for the second time in as many days, but the attackers were thwarted in the latest incident by a quick-acting crew, an international maritime watchdog said Thursday.
The pirates opened fire Wednesday on a Nigerian-owned oil tanker about 80 nautical miles off Port Harcourt, said Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur.
Choong said the ship managed to escape after crew members enforced anti-piracy measures and increased vessel speed.
The attack came a day after Nigerian pirates robbed a cargo ship anchored at Port Harcourt and kidnapped at least two crew members.
"The trend is worrying. It shows that pirate attacks off Nigeria are continuing and getting more violent," he said.
This brought to eight attacks this year off the coast of Nigeria alone, and there are believed to be many other cases that have gone unreported, Choong said.
Over the last year, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea _ which follows Africa's southward curve from Liberia to Gabon _ has escalated from low-level armed robberies to hijackings and cargo thefts.
In August, London-based Lloyd's Market Association, an umbrella group of insurers, listed Nigeria, neighboring Benin and nearby waters in the same risk category as Somalia in East Africa, where two decades of war and anarchy have allowed piracy to flourish.
Two weeks ago, the captain and chief engineer of another cargo ship off Nigeria were killed in a pirate attack. The United Nations has urged Gulf of Guinea countries to jointly develop an anti-piracy strategy.
Some West African states, particularly Nigeria, Ghana, Benin and Senegal, are taking steps to police their waters, but officials said most do not have sufficient maritime capability beyond 100 nautical miles off the coast.