Pirates in west Arfica have released the Energy Centurion tanker hijacked earlier this week.
Sources say that the pirates released the vessel and it’s 24 crew after stealing approximately 3,000 metric tons of fuel from the vessel. The crew are all reported to be safe.
By most accounts the hijacking was typical of pirates operating in the Gulf of Guinea. The vessel was boarded by the group while in the Lome Anchorage off the coast of Togo and, after a brief gun battle with the Togo Navy, made off with the vessel, crew, and cargo. On Wednesday, the vessel’s owner expressed optimism that the crew was safe and that the pirates would release the vessel as soon as they could steal whatever they could from the vessel.
Unlike pirates operating off the coast of Somali, pirates in west Africa don’t hold vessels and crew for ransom or long periods of time. Instead, pirates board vessels using force and scavenge whatever they can get their hands on before making off. In some cases, the pirates do take control of the vessel with the goal of stealing it’s cargoes before releasing the vessel usually within a week.
Twenty-one pirate attacks were reported in the Gulf of Guinea so far this year, compared with 20 for all of 2011, according to the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre. Attacks in the area, however, most likely go largely underreported due to the snatch-and-grab technique. The steady increase has some to question whether simliar defense tactics to those used of Somali are needed in the area.
The Energy Centurion hijacking, along with a similar attack on August 21, is just the latest incident highlighting the growing problem of piracy off of oil-rich Nigeria and the broader Gulf of Guinea region.