For the second time in less than two weeks a Ghanaian fishing vessel was reported to have been attacked in the Gulf of Guinea; several of its crew members were been kidnapped.
Commercial fishing vessel Iris S was reported to have been boarded about 100nm south of Cotonou, Benin. The 500 gt vessel was operating from the Ghanaian port of Tema. The near 40-year-old Iris S had a crew of 36 aboard.
Media from Ghana said that the Iris S had departed port on May 26th and that at the beginning of this week its crew spotted an unidentified vessel near the horizon. About an hour later two skiffs approached the fishing vessel, forcing it to stop. Seven armed pirates boarded.
The armed boarders stole personal possessions from the crew and equipment from the ship. They left the fishing vessel after about an hour, taking five crew members. The kidnapped individuals included the captain, chief officer, second officer chief engineer, all of them Korean nationals, as well as another engineer who was from the Philippines. The remaining 31 crew members were unharmed.
A Ghana Navy patrol boat escorted the Iris S back to port.
MDAT-GOG, the security cooperative effort between the Royal Navy and French Navy, warned on May 31st of the increased threat of piracy activity in the area near Ghana and Benin, urging ships and crew to increase their vigilance.
Pirates operating in the GoG have recently been facing increased patrols and tougher security from Nigerian and other country authorities nearer to shore, which appears to have led to them moving to a wider seaspace – a similar evolution as was seen a decade ago as Somalian pirates moved further and further out into the Arabian Gulf in search of targets.
Marine security consultancy Dryad Global said in its latest update on the region that “trends across the past 18 months have indicated a broadening of the piratical footprint within the Gulf of Guiana, beyond the traditional heartland of the Nigerian EEZ”.
During the previous assault, on May 19th, pirates boarded fishing vessel Atlantic Princess about 65m south of Tema. In that incident they initially took the vessel, but later departed, once again kidnapping five crew members.
It was not all bad news. Dryad Global analysis showed that overall the number of pirate attacks was down when compared with the first five months of 2020.
They reported that there had been six incidents in 2021, down from 11 last year. However, the number of crew kidnapped has risen slightly, to a total of 61 individuals in 2021.