A pirate action group (PAG) has been operating along the West African coast since 6 February and is believed to be using a captured Chinese fishing vessel.
According to Praesidium International, as of 9 February, following the possible kidnapping of 18 Chinese nationals from a fishing boat on 7 February, the PAG is believed to be located south of Delta State within the Nigerian/Sao Tomé & Principe area and proceeding northbound. All vessels sailing south of Brass (Nigeria) could encounter the PAG and should increase vigilance over the next 24 hours, Praesidium warned.
It added that the PAG appears to be operating with the support of a tuna fishing vessel, possibly flying Cameroon or Chinese flag. As the PAG approaches the Nigerian coast, it is possible that the fishing vessel will be abandoned.
According to Dryad Global, the fishing vessel is the Lianpengyu 809, which is suspected as being used as a mother vessel from which to sustain deep offshore operations and launch further attacks.
The vessel’s crew of 14 Chinese nationals whereabouts remain unknown following its suspected hijacking.
Earlier reports indicate that the MT Seaking sighted a small boat being launched from a suspected mother vessel near the latest sighting of the Lianpengyu. “There is a realistic possibility that the Lianpengyu is being used as a mother vessel to facilitate further attacks,” Dryad said.
Reports indicate that the boat came alongside the MT Seaking on 8 February and the attackers attempted to board the vessel using ladders. The master is understood to have taken evasive action and the original boarding failed.
Dryad notes that the Lianpengyu hijacking was the 11th offshore incident this year and the fifth successful boarding.
Total incidents throughout West Africa in 2020 showed a partial increase of 12% on those of 2019. Incidents involving failed approaches showed a significant increase within 2020 with 25 such incidents recorded against 10 in 2019.
“It is highly likely that the attack was perpetrated by the same grouping that targeted the Sea Phantom on the 6th of February. It is highly likely that further incidents will occur within the coming days. As such the risk level for all vessels operating within the Gulf of Guinea is to be considered CRITICAL,” Dryad said.
The Marshall Island flagged chemical tanker Sea Phantom was attacked and boarded by pirates off Sao Tome and Principe.