Dynacom Tankers has announced today that communications with their missing tanker, MT Kerala has been re-established and all crew are safe and accounted for. The shipowner states that pirates had hijacked the vessel offshore Angola, stealing a large quantity of cargo via ship-to-ship transfer, and have since left the vessel.
The International Maritime Bureau notes that one crew member was injured during the ordeal.
A report just released by Reuters says something completely different however. They report that the Angolan navy has said that the crew of the Kerala “turned off communications to fake an attack, seeking to calm energy sector fears that the vessel had been hijacked by pirates.”
In a quote obtained by Reuters from Captain Augusto Alfredo, spokesman for the Angolan navy, he notes, “It was all faked, there have been no acts of piracy in Angolan waters. What happened on Jan. 18, when we lost contact with the ship, was that the crew disabled the communications on purpose. There was no hijacking.”
In an emailed statement today, Dryad Maritime Intelligence notes that, “If this extended range hijack is confirmed, then anti-piracy measures will need to be implemented across a much greater area – as far west as Ivory Coast and, now, as far south as Angola.”
Ian Millen, Dryad Maritime’s Director of Intelligence adds, “The most important thing now is that the vessel’s crew to get to a place of safety where they can receive proper welfare support and attention. Previous incidents of this type have resulted in understandable trauma for the crews who have fallen victim to the brutality of maritime criminals. The vessel owners will need time to help MT Kerala’s crew and recover from the incident. The impact on those ashore, with responsibility for these seafarers, can also be significant.”
A similar incident occurred in February 2013 to the M/T Gascogne when it was hijacked off the Ivory Coast and subsequently brought to Nigeria where its cargo was subsequently stolen.