Concerns over rising pirate attacks at Gulf of Guinea
There are concerns that the surge in cases of pirate attacks and kidnapping of crews on the Gulf of Guinea and Nigerian waters may further threaten the prospect of the maritime sector.
The toll on seafarers has continued to rise with reports that another eight crew members were kidnapped in the Gulf of Guinea on Wednesday. The threat to seafarers remains high in the region as the security services warn that additional incidents are likely to occur in the coming days.
The latest incident, according to Dryad Global, involved a 38-year old bulk carrier, the Stevia. The 11,990 DWT vessel registered in Cameroon was reportedly sailing from southern Nigeria to Abidjan, Ivory Coast when it was attacked by pirates believed to be local militants.
Praesidium reports that the vessel’s speed dropped and was believed to drift for about two hours.
An unknown number of armed pirates were believed to have boarded the ship. The security services reported that eight crew members were abducted. It is the same general area where the crew from the Stelios K were abducted a month ago, the Praesidium reports.
Dryad’s analysis reports that this is the 27th kidnapping incident in the region in 2020 with a total of 138 people having been kidnapped.
The Nigerian Navy was informed of the incident, And in the first piece of positive news, the US government last week supplied Nigeria with equipment to reactivate its regional maritime awareness capability.
Praesidium, however, noted the recent threats by local Nigerian militants which it believes contributed to the recent spike in attacks in the area. They caution that additional incidents are likely.
The Maltese-flagged chemical tanker Sea Ranger was the second in a week to be on the unwanted receiving end of attention from pirates in the Gulf of Guinea, while five crew members have been kidnapped off a Cameroonian-flagged vessel.
The 127-meter long Sea Ranger was boarded some 160 nautical miles south-west of Brass, Nigeria, with Dryad Global reporting the incident is “concluded” and both vessel and crew safe.
The boarding is the second this week in the Gulf of Guinea and the third time Sea Ranger was boarded this month (December). Dryad Global report stated: “There has been a surge of incidents in the past five weeks, resulting in an increased risk rating for the Gulf of Guinea to critical on 11 November.
“As failed attacks continue, perpetrators are likely to increase in desperation. This is because of increased risk to themselves from naval counter-piracy activity and logistical strain. Vessels are most vulnerable when skiffs approach under cover of darkness, approaching and boarding with little or no resistance,”
Praesidium International, meanwhile, reported that on 10 December, the Cameroon-flagged product tanker CAP Saint Georges was boarded by an unknown number of perpetrators. Reports showed that five crew members were abducted (3 Cameroonians, 1 Ghanaian and 1 Sierra Leonian).
The CAP Saint Georges had departed Douala, Cameroon, on 11 November and was underway to her current homeport of Lomé, Togo, when the attack occurred.
“Track analysis indicates that no alteration of course or speed was recorded during the reported incident timings. The incident occurred in an area that has been relatively clear of piracy activity in the last year also due to the proximity of Bonga FPSO (floating production storage and offloading unit),” Praesidium said.
“It is worth mentioning that recently the area South of Lomé up to South West of Bonny Island has experienced an upsurge in piracy-related incidents due to the presence of possibly two active Nigerian based Pirate Action Groups,” it stated.
Dryad Global said the CAP Saint Georges incident marked the 26th kidnapping in the Gulf of Guinea High Risk Area (HRA) in 2020, bringing to 130 the number of people kidnapped.