Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Pirates Kidnap Five Crew members Off Coast of Nigeria

The product tanker Sampatikireported a pirate attack off of Nigeria in the early hours of March 26. The pirates boarded the ship at 04’20”N 005’10”E, about 35 nautical miles off the coast of Rivers State in the Gulf of Guinea, near Port Harcourt, said the British security advising firm Asket. 

The vessel made a VHF report to say that she had been boarded by eight armed pirates. The attackers stayed aboard for four hours, then departed with five hostages. Media report that the captives are officers, plus one engineer. 

Equipment aboard was damaged but the crew reported no injuries. The remaining crew complement headed back to port, arriving off Lome towards 0700 on March 28. As of Monday afternoon she was at anchorage. 

The Sampatiki is owned by Avin International of Athens and managed by Singaporean firm Transnav Ship Management. Avin operates roughly thirty vessels, primarily oil and product tankers.

Avin International did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Security consultants PGI Intelligence suggest that Nigerian pirates are increasingly turning to kidnapping and ransom as a means of raising funds, as the profitability of hijacking tankers and stealing oil or fuel is in decline. 

The pace of hostage-taking in Nigerian piracy incidents appears to be on the rise, with four instances so far in 2016 – the same as the number of kidnappings for the entirety of 2014. 

Regional authorities are attempting to fight back. On March 16, Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea signed an agreement to establish combined patrols to bolster security in the Gulf of Guinea, a spokesman for Nigeria's president said.

Garba Shehu said the agreement, which comes amid the backdrop of a rise in pipeline attacks in the oil-producing Niger Delta region of Africa's biggest crude producer, was signed late on Tuesday by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.

"The conclusion and signing of the agreement is expected to enhance security in the Gulf of Guinea and help in curbing maritime crimes such as piracy, crude oil theft, sabotage of oil rigs and arms smuggling," said Shehu.