Late one February night, a band of pirates hijacked a Chinese fishing trawler 80 miles off the coast of Gabon. Over the next 36 hours they swept across the territorial waters of four west African countries, attacking three more boats before sailing the Lianpengyu 809 a further 250 miles to the Niger delta in Nigeria.
Just after midnight on February 10, they abandoned the trawler off Nigeria’s Rivers State and took 10 of the boat’s 14 crew members into the creeks of the delta, a safe haven for the increasingly sophisticated criminal syndicates that have in recent years turned the Gulf of Guinea into a global hotspot for piracy.
A month later, the crew members were released in exchange for $300,000 in ransom, according to local media. The attack on four boats in less than two days was particularly brazen, but came after a year in which the Gulf of Guinea accounted for 130 of the 135 sailors kidnapped anywhere in the world, according to data from the International Maritime Bureau.