In the last week several more pirate attacks have been carried out in the Gulf of Guinea, with a number of crew kidnapped.
According to security services provider Praesidium International, on 21 March the Equatorial Guinea-flagged passenger vessel Elobey VI was attacked and boarded whilst sailing between Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
The perpetrators managed to board and hijack the vessel, forcing the crew to sail North towards Nigeria, indicating a Nigerian group was responsible. The vessel was released on 23 March off Bonny Island but three of the six crew were abducted. According to Praesidium, the kidnapped men are two Moroccan and one Equatorial Guinean nationals.
It was later reported that the Equatorial Guinea naval vessel Wele Nzas escorted the Elobey VI to Malabo where they arrived on 24 March.
Several days later, on 25 March, the Greek-flagged bulk carrier Scarabe was reported being under attack by men on board a speedboat. According to Praesidium, the attack later ended but there is no official information about the status of the crew.
“The vessel was coming from Calabar, Nigeria, and likely returning to Lagos when it was approached. At 1000 UTC she started altering her course and speed in a way consistent with evasive manoeuvres. At 1015 UTC the AIS was deactivated and this detail would suggest that the vessel was successfully boarded by its assailants,” Preasidium said. The AIS was later turned back on.
“A source indicates that a security vessel from nearby Agbami field intervened to provide assistance, but this information has not been confirmed. The vessel appears to be safe.”
The latest incident reported in the general area (Agbami-Brass axis) occurred on 21 January and involved the Panama-flagged general cargo MSC Grace, which was attacked by a group of pirates who aborted the attack after evasive manoeuvres by the ship.
Preasidium said the corridor that extends southwest of Bonny Island represents an area that has been characterized by high activity of pirate action groups between 2018 and 2019. Further approaches in same area are to be expected from now till mid-May although since mid-2019 Nigerian pirate action groups seem to have shifted their attention in new areas well outside of Nigerian forces’ jurisdiction.
Also on 25 March, the Liberian flagged tanker CAP Diamant reported a suspicious approached by a speedboat, which stopped when the security vessel escorting the tanker increased speed to close the gap, Preasidium said.
These latest incidents come as the container vessel MSC Talia F was attacked by pirates off the coast of Gabon, with seven crew abducted on 22 March whilst halfway between Sao Tome and Libreville, Gabon. Apparently seven of the 17 Ukrainian crew were kidnapped.
According to Dryad Global, this is the first incident within this area in 2020. Within 2019 there were four recorded incidents at Port Libreville and the Owendo Anchorage involving a spate of incidents in December 2019.
“One of those incidents resulted in the kidnapping of four Chinese fishermen and lately the crew from a vessel transiting from Douala to Port Libreville,” Dryad said.