Pirates kidnapped five crew members from an offshore supply vessel last week off the coast of Brass, Nigeria, marking yet another violent attack highlighting the risks to seafarers and ships in the region, the IMB Piracy Reporting Center has confirmed.
One Nigerian Navy guard was reportedly killed in an exchange of gunfire with the pirates, the IMB said.
The IMB reported the attack occurred 9 March 2019 around 32 nautical miles southeast of Brass. During the attack, pirates armed with machine guns in two speed boats approached an unidentified offshore support vessel underway. The IMB report continues:
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. Alarm raised, 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 crews sailed the vessel under escort to a safe anchorage. One Nigerian Navy armed guard reported killed in the exchange of fire between the naval security boat and the pirates.
Investigations into the attack are ongoing.
The attack is the latest in a region that has emerged as one of the most dangerous in the world for seafarers and ships.
According to the International Maritime Bureau, the number of piracy incidents reported in the Gulf of Guineas in 2018 in surged to 201 incidents, including six hijackings, marking a steep rise from 180 incidents in 2017 and 191 in 2016. Among the 201 incidents reported, there were 13 ships were fired upon, 130 hostages taken, and 78 seafarers kidnapped for ransom. To make matters worse, some experts estimate that some 40% of incidents in the region go unreported, so the number of actual incidents is likely much higher.
In response to the growing issue of piracy region, shipping association BIMCO has stepped up its calls for international naval support.
“This is in the interest of everybody. It is obviously in the interest of the seafarers, but each and every one of the naval powers in the world have a strategic interest in this region, since there is a lot of strategic commodities that comes out of the Gulf of Guinea region,” said Jakob Larsen, BIMCO’s Head of Maritime Security. “It really is in the interest of the international society to make this trade smoother, and to protect the seafarers on whom we so deeply depend to keep the trade flowing.”