Armed pirates have kidnapped five crewmembers from a vessel off Nigeria and shot dead a member of the Nigerian Navy who was guarding the ship.
The attack happened on 9 March around 30 nautical miles off Brass, Nigeria, according to the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting centre. Pirates armed with machine guns in two speed boats approached an offshore support vessel underway. The captain immediately notified the naval escort security boat which maneuvered to engage the attackers. One speed boat closed in from port side of the vessel and crossed the bow, while the other speed boat exchanged fire with the security boat.
The alarm was raised and the crew proceeded to the engine room and all power was shut down. The pirates boarded the vessel with the aid of an elongated ladder. They broke into the accommodation, vandalized the cabins and took crew belongings and vessel’s properties. The pirates then proceeded to the engine room, kidnapped five men and escaped.
The remaining crew sailed the vessel under escort to a safe anchorage. One Nigerian Navy armed guard was reported killed in the exchange of fire between the naval security boat and the pirates, the International Maritime Bureau said.
This latest attack came just days after pirates in the Gulf of Guinea kidnapped three crewmembers from the Malta-registered tanker Histria Ivory, which was sailing 20 nautical miles off the port of Lome, Togo, on 3 March. The majority of the crew, primarily Romanians, evaded capture but three were taken hostage before the pirates left.
The Gulf of Guinea remains increasingly dangerous for seafarers. Reports of attacks in waters between the Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo more than doubled in 2018, accounting for all six hijackings worldwide, 13 of 18 ships fired on, 130 of 141 hostages taken globally and 78 of 83 seafarers kidnapped for ransom in 2018, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
The region saw a significant spike in violence in the last quarter of 2018. Vessels were boarded by pirates well outside territorial waters with crew kidnapped and taken to Nigeria and held for ransom.