Naval Captain Takougnadé Neyo said the Togolese Navy sprang into action on Wednesday after receiving a distress call from the crew of the MV Eleana, which was travelling from Takoradi in Ghana, Ghana News Link reports.
The tanker, loaded with crude oil, was around 15 kilometres inside Togo’s territorial waters when it was attacked.
“With the transmission equipment the crew succeeded to send a distress call to the Togolese Naval force centre,” said Takougnadé. “And following the instruction of the hierarchy the Naval force immediately despatched two patrol boats to the rescue of the tanker. The rescue team succeeded to climb up and secure the tanker. I can assure you that there is no big casualty and all the crewmembers are safe.”
Takougnadé said that the pirates had boarded the vessel and stole some of the crew’s belongings, but the crew were safe as they had locked themselves in the ship’s citadel. He added that the group of six pirates fired into the air, but that did not deter the Togolese patrol boats. The unidentified pirates managed to flee in a speedboat.
In September last year the Togolese Navy detained several suspected pirate boats and prevented pirates from capturing a Maltese tanker.
Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea has risen dramatically, with more than 30 attacks occurring there last year compared to just one in 2010, the Inter Press Service Agency (IPS) reports.
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said that two pirate attacks occurred off Nigeria’s coast last week. On Saturday a general cargo vessel 74 nautical miles south of Lagos was approached by two boats, which fired on the vessel and chased it for around 25 minutes before aborting the attack and moving away. The crew, which mustered in the citadel, were not injured in the attack but the vessel sustained damage from the gunfire.
On Thursday pirates boarded and hijacked a product tanker off Lagos and sailed to an unknown location, the International Maritime Bureau reports.
Pirates in the Gulf of Guinea, which stretches from the Guinea to Angola, tend to raid ships for cash and cargo rather than hijacking the crews for ransom like their counterparts off the coast of Somalia.
Piracy has already led maritime insurers in London to put Benin on a list of high-risk zones for shipping. Maritime insurers represented by the Lloyd's Market Association are demanding higher fees to cover ships which pass through the region, IPS reports.
Recent attacks have also prompted countries in the region to request foreign assistance. France sent the patrol frigate Germinal to the region, where it patrolled the coasts of Benin, Togo and Ghana in an effort to combat piracy and train foreign naval personnel.
In February last year, the Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate USS Robert G Bradley spent two weeks in Togo in order to assist the naval forces of Togo, Ghana and Benin republic in tackling piracy in their territorial waters. The United States has vessels deployed in the region as part of its Africa Partnership Station programme.
As of January 31 there have been 37 pirate attacks around the world this year and two successful hijackings. Of these, Somali pirates were responsible for 13 incidents and both successful hijackings. They are holding ten ships and 159 hostages, according to IMB figures.
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