On 15 December 2019, around six heavily armed pirates boarded a product tanker underway approximately 118 nm of Cotonou, Benin, kidnapping 20 seafarers and destroying some equipment on board. The pirates left a single crew member, a deck cadet, behind. The tanker was sailing from Luanda, Angola to Lome in Togo when the pirates struck.
The incident comes just days after 19 crew members from a VLCC were kidnapped about 100nm south of Bonny Island offshore Nigeria on 3 December. In this case, seven crew members were left behind.
The International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB) is concerned at the unprecedented level of crew kidnapped in the Gulf of Guinea and is advising all ships to be extra vigilant when transiting through the Region. The IMB says these incidents show a serious escalation in seafarers being targeted for kidnap for ransom in the Gulf of Guinea. The fact they are occurring well outside territorial waters makes it all the more important that ships underway maintain a heightened level of vigilance, until they are well clear of these waters.
“Our main concern is for the safety of the crew and the quick and safe return of the kidnapped seafarers,” said IMB Assistant Director Cyrus Mody. “IMB calls for more support from coastal countries in the Region, to provide a meaningful response, including, investigating the gangs who carry out the kidnappings and ultimately holding them to account under law.”
IMB strongly urges all shipmasters and owners to report all actual, attempted and suspected piracy and armed robbery incidents to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre and piracy monitoring centres in the Region. This first step in the response chain is vital for industry to understand the areas of risk and littoral states to allocate adequate resources to tackle this crime.
Economic decline, along with a restrictive lockdown, left the freight sector in a vulnerable situation.