On Jan. 5 Nigerian pirates stormed a Panamanian-flagged Ukrainian tanker, the Westaf, anchored off Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital, according to the Sovfracht Maritime Bulletin published in Kiev.28 attacks were logged in 2009 compared with 40 a year earlier. But shipping sources suggested that there were another 30 attacks last year that went unreported. Most were related to the oil industry.
They robbed the crew, shooting and wounding the captain and six of his men. The Westhaf, built in 1986, is used as a floating storage and processing terminal.
In the Niger Delta, the pirates in armed speedboats attack tankers and work with militants in the delta's swamplands who steal around 150,000 barrels a day from oil installations or pipelines, around 5 percent of Nigeria's daily production.
The poorly equipped government forces are now receiving support from the US Navy. The US Africa Command, inaugurated in 2008, will undoubtedly play a major role to enable safe passage of this increasingly vital oil. The cost of this protection will, of course, be borne by American taxpayers. By 2015 the region is expected to be supplying 25 percent of U.S. oil imports.