Pirate attacks continue in West Africa


The Gulf of Guinea has recorded its third ship hijacking this month, with a chemical tanker captured off Togo, as the region continues to see a spike in maritime insecurity.

According to the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting centre, armed pirates boarded and hijacked an anchored chemical tanker at Lome Anchorage on 12 May, holding its crew hostage.

The Togo Navy received a call from the owners that their tanker had been attacked and immediately responded by dispatching patrol boats to investigate. The tanker was intercepted 25 nautical miles from the anchorage area and forced to return to Lome port. The crew were reported safe and the pirates, comprising two Togolese nationals and six Nigerians, were captured and handed over to authorities.

The vessel involved, the Togolese-flagged G Dona I, was crewed by seven, including a Beninese, a Nigerian and five Ghanaians.

Dryad Maritime notes that this was the fourth incident in the vicinity of Lome in 2019, with one of the most recent being a kidnapping 30 nautical miles south of Lome on 3 March. “This latest incident is a rare occurrence of a vessel being hijacked and intercepted by naval forces. With four incidents off Togo in 2019 it is assessed that this latest successful operation that resulted in the detention of pirates will have an impact on both the capability and intent of any established Pirate Action Group in the waters off Togo,” Dryad said.

Last month the International Maritime Bureau noted that the Gulf of Guinea represented a high number of piracy and armed robbery attacks at sea, with 22 incidents reported in the first quarter of 2019. The region also accounted for all of the worldwide crew kidnappings as 21 crew members were kidnapped across five separate incidents during this time period. Incidents were reported in the coastal countries, of Benin, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria and Togo in the first quarter of 2019.

Nigeria has been a hotspot for piracy incidents over the past decade. However, in the first quarter of 2019, Nigeria experienced a decrease in reported piracy incidents. Nigeria reported 14 incidents of piracy for the first quarter of 2019, in comparison to 22 incidents in the first quarter of 2018. These results confirm the Nigerian Navy’s increased efforts to actively respond to reported incidents by dispatching patrol boats. Despite these efforts, Nigerian waters remain risky for vessels, especially the port of Lagos where four incidents were reported in the first quarter.

Earlier this month the heavy lift vessel Blue Marlin was attacked by Nigerian pirates off Equatorial Guinea, on 5 May. It was freed by Spanish and Equatorial Guinea naval personnel two days later and ten pirates apprehended. It appears the same group of pirates hijacked the Nigeria-flagged tug Charis on 5 May, which was also freed by Spanish and Guinean personnel. The tug was used as a mother ship to attack the Blue Marlin.

Last month the Spanish Navy’s offshore patrol vessel Serviola rescued the crew of a Nigerian-flagged vessel in the Gulf of Guinea from pirates, who had held the crew hostage for four days. The Serviola was on a routine patrol in the area.

Meanwhile, five Indian sailors captured off the oil tanker Apecus off Nigeria remain captive after being taken on 19 April.