Number of piracy incidents in Gulf of Guinea growing quickly

At least three vessels were approached in four incidents in the Gulf of Guinea over the weekend of December 5th/6th. Malta-flagged product tanker New Ranger (IMO 9328326) survived two boardings in less than 24 hours.

New Ranger had departed Lome, Togo, heading for Cameroon, on December 4th. The vessel reportedly had been boarded previously in 2011 and 2015.

Early on December 5th when the vessel was about 200nm south of Lagos, the tanker was approached by armed pirates. The vessel reportedly started to sail in circles in an attempt to prevent the pirates boarded. However a number of people however successfully boarded the vessel, causing the crew to retreat to the citadel onboard. Approximately two hours after the incident had begun the vessel was back underway and the crew was reported safe.

Dryad Global noted that, with three unsuccessful attacks, the pirates were likely to become more desperate and likely to take greater risks.

A day later and the New Ranger was about 100 miles south of Brass in Cameroon, at which point the New Ranger was approached for a second time. At least four pirates were able to board the tanker, and again the crew retreated to the citadel.

As with the first boarding, the perpetrators were unsuccessful and left the vessel.

The vessel is now at the anchorage at the terminal in Cameroon.

Dryad noted that weather conditions in the region had been favourable for piracy activity.

2007-built, Malta-flagged, 8,499 gt New Ranger is owned by Fontana Shipping Co care of manager Protank Management of Athens, Greece. It is entered with Gard P&I Club on behalf of Fontana Shipping Co.

Meanwhile, in a YouTube broadcast one can see Russian-speaking crew on an unnamed vessel defending against a pirate attack. This vessel had armed guards team, probably Nigerian, on board. The use of armed guards who were happy to fire back at pirates was a major factor in reducing the number of attacks off the coast of Somalia a decade ago.

During this attack the Master can be seen and heard making an announcement via the general alarm system that there was an attack underway, alerting the crew and ordering them to stay away from starboard side windows and portholes.

A security team fires at pirates from the bridge, and another team member on a deck below the funnel was firing a heavy calibre machine gun.

The pirates apparently also fired, as bullet holes were late found on the vessel. The pirates then ceased attack and fled, with the crew on the bridge saying that they saw one of pirates being hit.

Finally, the BBC World Service last night December 8th at 03:00 GMT broadcast a lengthy and harrowing piece (half an hour) on the kidnapping of five Indian sailors and a Nigerian captain from products tanker Apecus (IMO 7333810) in late April 2019. The programme brings home the reality of the experiences kidnapped crew go through while their lives are negotiated for ransom.

Indian sailor Sudeep Choudhary was kidnapped at gunpoint by Nigerian pirates. He and four other Indian crew, as well as the Nigerian captain of the vessel, were taken to a swampy jungle prison in the Niger Delta where Choudhary saw human skeletons hung in the trees. The hostages pinned their hopes on shaky ransom negotiations and the desperate efforts of their families back home. Sudeep tells Outlook’s Kevin Ponniah his harrowing story and how his freedom was secured.

At the time of the incident 1973-built, Palau-flagged, 2,055 gt Apecus is owned by Shiba Shipmanagement Ltd, care of manager Petronav Carriers of Piraeus, Athens.
The programme “The Sailor And The Pirate King” can be listened to on BBC Sounds at: