Ten crew have been kidnapped from a tanker off Nigeria and two fishing trawlers have been boarded in the latest incidents of maritime crime and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
The tanker MT Vemahope was attacked by a single speedboat with an unknown number of armed individuals on board on 30 April while off Libreville, Gabon, Dryad Global reports. The vessel is understood to have been boarded resulting in the kidnap of ten crew members with four crew remaining onboard.
Several days later, on 3 May, a fishing trawler was boarded by armed men onboard a speedboat off Libreville. The speedboat had at least 13 people on board, Praesidium International said. Another fishing trawler was boarded the same morning. Praesidium added that the vessels involved were the Amerger II and the Amerger VII. Three crewmembers were kidnapped from the Amerger II. The perpetrators then attacked the AMERGER VII and kidnapped another three crewmembers. Both fishing trawlers were released. The crew included three Indonesian, two Senegalese and one South Korean.
The perpetrators spoke English and the area has been a hotspot of piracy activity originating from Nigeria as recently as late December 2019 when the Panama-flagged landing craft Tropic Dawn was boarded by armed men who killed the Master before escaping. The same speedboat then approached two Chinese fishing trawlers anchored southwest of Owendo and kidnapped 4 crewmembers. Finally, with local naval patrols of the area, the speedboat proceeded towards the open sea where the pirates intercepted the Ethiopian-flagged cargo vessel Benovation. The pirates hijacked the ship, forcing the crew to sail north up to Cameroon where they disembarked and escaped on a speedboat taking with them two crew members, Praesidium said.
“The modus operandi recorded based on available elements share some similarities with the above-mentioned events and the possibility that the same group is involved is not to be ruled out.”
With the kidnap of 10 crew from the Vemahope the total number of crew kidnapped from vessels operating in West Africa within 2020 has increased to 42 personnel, Dryad said.
The Vemahope incident is located 40 nautical miles northeast of an incident involving a vessel being fired upon in February and 101 nautical miles northwest of what appeared to be a focus of incident reporting within 2019.
“Historically incident reporting within this area is significantly less than that of the wider Delta area, principally a s a result of less traffic density. However, across 2019 and 2020 there has been a gradual increase in incidents occurring beyond traditional maritime crime heartlands,” Dryad said.
“If confirmed, this incident would be the seventh deep offshore incident within the Nigerian exclusive economic zone within 2020. Total incidents in West Africa have thus far tracked 2019 trends almost exactly with a partial fall of only 1 incident seen in 2020 compared incidents over the same time-frame in 2019.”