Five crew are reported kidnapped off the Ghanaian fishing vessel Iris S in the Gulf of Guinea in the latest incident of piracy in the region.
According to Dryad Global, the vessel was attacked by armed men on two speedboats on 31 May, 190 km south of Cotonou. Pirates are understood to have stolen crew properties and kidnapped five crew members, namely the South Korean captain, chief officer, second officer and chief engineer, and a Filipino engineer. There were 36 crew on board and the remaining 31 are reported as safe.
Crew reported seeing an unidentified vessel near the horizon prior to the attack, indicating the possibility of a mother ship for the two speedboats that attacked the Irisi S.
A Ghana Navy patrol boat escorted the Iris S back to port. Authorities have also been informed of the kidnapping and there was a hope that the pirates could be intercepted before they reached the Niger Delta where they are believed to be heading.
The incident follows a recent threat warning issued by Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade – Gulf of Guinea (MDAT-GoG) indicating a heightened risk from piracy within the region. The MDAT-GoG is the security cooperative effort between the British Royal Navy and French Navy.
Another incident occurred on 19 May when pirates boarded the Korean fishing vessel Atlantic Princess approximately 100 km south of Tema, Ghana. In that incident, they initially took the vessel but later departed, kidnapping five crew members from the fishing vessel.
The incident represented the furthest westerly kidnapping in the Gulf of Guinea to date, Dryad said at the time.
So far in 2021 there have been 61 personnel kidnapped across six incidents from vessels operating within the Gulf of Guinea.
“Trends across the past 18 months have indicated a broadening of the piratical footprint within the Gulf of Guinea, beyond the traditional heartland of the Nigerian EEZ [Exclusive Economic Zone]. Incidents of kidnapping throughout the Gulf of Guinea are currently tracking below 2020 volumes with six incidents recorded in 2021 against 11 over the same time frame in 2020. Despite this, volumes of personnel kidnapped are showing a slight increase with 61 personnel kidnapped in 2021 against 57 across the same time frame in 2020,” Dryad notes.
It appears pirates are moving further west as Nigeria improves security in its waters. This month it will launch the Deep Blue maritime security initiative, with patrol boats, surveillance aircraft and land forces, to protect its EEZ and oil facilities.
The International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB’s) Piracy Reporting Centre recorded 84 attempted and successful attacks in 2020, up from the 64 in 2019, but almost the same as 2018, at 82 incidents in the Gulf of Guinea. Most assaults targeted the crew to kidnap them for ransom. The region is now the site of over 90% of the world’s reported kidnappings at sea.