Graphic Business News

Gulf of Guinea records first pirates attack in 2019• 6 MSC crew members kidnapped

By: Maclean Kwofi
MSC has confirmed a successful pirate attack on the sub-Panamax container ship MSC Mandy off the coast of Cotonou, Benin.
MSC has confirmed a successful pirate attack on the sub-Panamax container ship MSC Mandy off the coast of Cotonou, Benin.

About six crewmembers have been reported missing following a pirate attack on the sub-Panamax container ship, the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) off the coast of Cotonou, Benin in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG).

The incident occurred on Wednesday, January 2, 2019 when the 2,700 20-foot equivalent unit (TEU) MSC Mandy was 55 nautical miles (NM) off Benin in the GoG.

“A small containership was attacked on January 2, 2019 in the GoG and so far six crew members have been reported missing,” a source with the MSC confirmed to GRAPHIC BUSINESS via a telephone interview on January 3.

According to the source, the vessel was quickly secured after the attack and the safety of the other seafarers on board has also been assured.

“The MSC quickly secured the vessel and its cargo and ensured the safety of the remaining seafarers on board.

“Out of respect for the missing crew members and their families, the MSC has no further comment for the time being,” the source added.

But further information reaching the paper suggested that the vessel in question had since been diverted to an anchorage off Lagos, Nigeria after the incident, where it remained as at Thursday, January 3.

Warning notice
According to a warning notice issued by NATO’s Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade – Gulf of Guinea (MDAT-GoG), the vessel was attacked and boarded by pirates some 55 nautical miles off the coast of Cotonou, while it was traversing through the GoG.

AIS data provided by Marine Traffic shows that the 2,668 TEU ship, which was sailing from the port of Lome, Togo, is currently anchored off Lagos.

Vessels transiting the region’s waters have subsequently been cautioned to shore up their defence against forced boarding.

Piracy trend
Maritime piracy, particularly kidnapping is gradually becoming a serious concern in the GoG.

According to Oceans Beyond Piracy, 100 seafarers were kidnapped in the waters off the Gulf of Guinea in 2017 and the EOS Risk Group counted 35 more in the first half of 2018 alone.

Last month, the IMB ICC piracy reporting centre was informed of one attempted attack on a chemical tanker and one successful boarding of an OSV under way, both off Nigeria.

Millions of dollars have been spent on additional maritime security measures for the region, but local authorities have had only limited success in interdicting and foiling attacks.

Ghana for instance recorded more than five separate pirate attacks on its territorial waters in 2018.

In a concerning trend, the reach of Nigerian pirates has expanded from the historic centre of activity off the Niger River Delta to include waters off Benin and Ghana, well to the west.

Despite this expansion, most attacks are still concentrated in the vicinity of the petroleum hub of Bonny Island, with pirates searching out vessel targets as far as 100 nm from shore.