A cargo tanker has been attacked off the Nigerian coast and 19 crew kidnapped in the latest incident in the Gulf of Guinea. It marks the fourth kidnapping in the area in 2019.
The MT Nave Constellation was attacked on 3 December whilst approximately 100 nautical miles south of Bonny Island, Nigeria. Having been boarded, the pirates left the vessel with 19 crew members (18 Indians and 1 Turk). They left seven crewmembers aboard the tanker, according to Navios Tankers Management, which owns the vessel. The Nave Constellation had only just collected its cargo. India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) confirmed the kidnapping of the 18 Indian sailors onboard the 300 000 ton Hong Kong-flagged tanker.
The attack left the vessel undamaged. It was unusual as Nigerian pirates seldom target such large vessels, often siphoning crude oil off smaller vessels.
According to Dryad Global, this incident is the sixth maritime security incident and the fourth kidnapping incident to occur within 30 nautical miles of the South Eastern boundary of the Nigerian exclusive economic zone (EEZ) within 2019. “This is further confirmation of a developing trend of incidents that are assessed to be perpetuated by a well resourced pirate action group (PAG), most likely operating from one or more mother-ship vessels. It is assessed that this PAG is aware of the limitations of security prescience beyond the Nigerian EEZ and is seeking to exploit traffic conducting operations at or in support of oil infrastructure located along the north eastern fringes of the Nigerian EEZ and within the 60 nautical mile channel between the Nigerian EEZ and Bioko Island,” Dryad said.
Dryad added that ships operating in the region face “heightened risk” in the medium to longer term.
Pirate attacks have continued unabated in the Gulf of Guinea. The International Maritime Bureau said that in the first nine months of 2019, the Gulf of Guinea accounted for 82% of crew kidnappings globally and 86% of crew taken hostage.
“Although incidents are down, the Gulf of Guinea continues to be a concern for piracy and armed robbery-related activities with kidnappings of crew members increasing in both scale and frequency,” said Pottengal Mukundan, Director, of the International Maritime Bureau. “It is important that shipmasters and owners continue to report all actual, attempted, and suspected incidents to ensure that an accurate picture of these attacks emerge and action is taken against these criminals before the incidents further escalate.”
Recent attacks in the Gulf of Guinea include against the Singapore-owned Pacific Warden off the coast of Equatorial Guinea on 25 November, which saw seven crew kidnapped. Four crew were kidnapped from the Greek-owned Elka Aristotle tanker off Togo on 4 November and nine crew were earlier kidnapped off the Norwegian-owned cargo vessel Bonita off the coast of Benin on 3 November.