ABUJA, July 18 (Reuters) – Pirates robbed a chemical tanker off the coast of Togo this week, a maritime agency and a security source said on Thursday, the latest attack in increasingly dangerous West African waters.
Gunmen in speedboats boarded the Marshall Islands-flagged MT Ocean Centurion on Tuesday, around 45 nautical miles southeast of Togo’s coastal capital Lome, before looting the ship’s and the crew’s money and their belongings, a security source said.
The tanker’s management company, Union Maritime, declined to comment.
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB), a piracy watchdog, confirmed an attack on a chemical tanker in a similar location but did not specify the name of the vessel.
“On July 16, the robbers took two crew members and disembarked from the tanker with the rescue boat, taking along ship’s cash, crew cash and personal belongings,” a report on IMB’s website said.
“The crew were released later. Three crew members injured during the incident,” it added.
The Gulf of Guinea region, which includes Nigeria, Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast, is a major source of oil, cocoa and metals for world markets. Unlike the Horn of Africa, international navies are not actively engaged in counter-piracy missions there.
An increase in piracy over the last year is driving up shipping and insurance costs, discouraging investment.
On Monday, pirates hijacked an oil products tanker with 24 crew on board off the coast of Gabon, the most southerly in a spate of raids in the Gulf of Guinea to date.
Nigerian gangs are believed to be the main perpetrators of the pirate attacks, security sources say. (Reporting by Joe Brock; additional reporting by Jonathan Saul in London; Editing by Kevin Liffey)