Lives of seafarers and goods are at risk following the continued kidnaping of crew members along the Gulf of Guinea.
According to reports by global risk intelligence partner, Dryad Maritime, over nine incidents have occurred in November alone, taking the number of kidnapped persons from vessels within the Gulf of Guinea to 115 across 22 incidents within 2020.
Checks by our correspondent showed that a Liberian flagged Heavy Load carrier ZHEN HUA 7 was boarded on November 13th while drifting 78 nautical miles North West of Sao Tome resulting in the kidnap of 14 crew.
The vessel is understood to have had a crew of 27 personnel and inbound Sao Tome, escorted by the Italian Naval vessel Frederico Martiningo.
On November 16th, a Ghanaian flagged general cargo vessel AM DELTA was also boarded, resulting in the kidnap of five crew.
The vessel was understood to have been boarded by seven pirates. The kidnapped crew were believed to be Ghanaian nationals.
Further reporting indicated that the perpetrators had damaged the onboard communications and navigation equipment, according to live security reports.
Part of the report read, “This incident occurred closer to shore than the majority of incidents in 2020 which have thus far reflected the developed trend of incidents at the 80+nm range.
“It is within a high traffic area that saw a large cluster of incidents in both 2018 and 2019. Following a spate of unsuccessful attacks on vessels previously, it is highly likely that the perpetrators sought to return to areas of known traffic density and opportunistic targets.”
Immediately after that incident, another Togo bunkering vessel STELIOS K was boarded and presumed hijacked while on route to Lagos, 9:40pm local time on November 16.
The vessel’s last known location was 115 nautical miles South-southwest of Lomé. The company reported loss of contact with the vessel resulting in authorities seeking to establish the vessel location and make contact with the crew.
Coastguard authorities have since confirmed that the perpetrators were still onboard the vessel, although no lives had been lost.
Dryad reports that without immediate kidnap, the perpetrators potentially sought options for either offloading or selling refined product that may be onboard.
Reports from the International Maritime Bureau has indicated that kidnappings surged to 40 per cent in Nigeria and Ghanaian waters, during the first nine months of 2020.
Director of IMB, Michael Howlett, said, “Crews are facing exceptional pressures due to COVID-19, and the risk of violent piracy or armed robbery is extra stress.”
“While IMB liaises with authorities swiftly in case of a pirate attack, we encourage all coastal states and regional co-operations to take responsibility for ensuring maritime security within their EEZ to achieve safer seas and secure trade.”
The Gulf of Guinea, a major part of Nigerian waters, has been labelled the hotspot, accounting for 95 per cent of global kidnappings. The IMB has warned that pirate gangs in the area are well organised and targeting all vessel types over a wide range.