The Spanish Navy has rescued a Maltese-flagged vessel from pirates off the coast of Equatorial Guinea in conjunction with a Guinean frigate.
The Spanish defence ministry said on 5 May the 20-strong crew of the heavy lift vessel MV Blue Marlin, sailing 80 nautical miles off Equatorial Guinea, reported they were under attack from pirates and had locked themselves in the vessel’s fortified citadel. The pirates demanded money from the crew and fired weapons inside the ship.
The Spanish patrol vessel Serviola, which was on patrol west of Equatorial Guinea’s capital Malabo, headed to the scene of the incident and arrived on 7 May.
Serviola joined the 107 metre long Guinean frigate Wele Nzas and teams from both vessels boarded the Blue Marlin, where they freed the crew. No pirates were found on board. The Spanish Navy had earlier received information that a tugboat had been hijacked in the area and could have been used as a mother ship for the attack.
Due to damage inflicted by the pirates, the Blue Marlin was unable to sail by itself and a tug was mobilised to take the vessel to a safe location. Five armed guards were dispatched by Equatorial Guinea to guard the ship.
“I want to express my compliments to our crew for their extremely professional and adequate actions in this life threatening situation. I am extremely grateful and in particular thankful to the navy of Equatorial Guinea for their quick and decisive response, as well as to the Spanish navy for their assistance via MDAT-GoG [Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade – Gulf of Guinea]. Because of their actions, this hijacking could be ended quickly and our colleagues were brought into safety,” said Boskalis CEO Peter Berdowski in a statement. Boskalis owns the Blue Marlin, which is probably most famous for returning the USS Cole to the United States after it was attacked in Yemen in 2000.
Ten pirates were apprehended by Equatorial Guinea after the Blue Marlin attack. “I congratulate the heroic action of our armed forces,” said a statement from Equatorial Guinea’s Vice President of Defense and Security Teodorin Nguema Obiang. “Thanks to the swift intervention of our armed forces, (we) managed to save the crew on board and arrest the ten pirates, whose alleged nationality is Nigerian.”
This is the second time the Serviola has been involved in an anti-piracy operation in the Gulf of Guinea this year. In April, the patrol vessel rescued a Nigerian flagged vessel from pirates who had held the crew hostage. The presence of the patrol boat forced the pirates to abandon the ship and flee, but not before robbing the crew of money and valuables as well as their provisions.
Pirates remain active in the Gulf of Guinea, with multiple attacks in 2019. According to data provided by EOS Risk Group, on 3 May the Liberia-flagged tanker Levanto, underway from Calabar to Lagos, was attacked by armed pirates in a speedboat off Nigeria. The pirates fired upon the vessel but failed to board. On 5 May the Nigeria-flagged tug Charis was boarded and hijacked by pirates off Equatorial Guinea. It is believed that this vessel was used by the pirates to attack the Blue Marlin which was, underway to Malta. After the Blue Marlin was rescued, the Charis was also declared free from pirates.