Pirates Kidnap 20 Seafarers from Tanker off Benin
Twenty crew members have been kidnapped from a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker off Benin, Dryad Global said.
The incident, described as “the largest kidnapping event in West Africa within 2019”, occurred some 110 nautical miles off the coast of Benin on December 15, 2019.
The tanker, identified as the 19,100 dwt MT Duke, was attacked and boarded by six pirates while sailing from Luanda, Angola, to Lome, Togo, with a cargo of fuel oil.
Out of the ship’s twenty-one crew members, the pirates have kidnapped twenty Indian men, while one Nigerian seafarer is believed to have been left aboard the vessel, according to Dryad.
The 2003-built chemical/product tanker is owned by UK’s Union Maritime which confirmed the attack:
“Duke’s crew is managed by V Ships, and Union Maritime is working closely with them and all relevant authorities to resolve the situation as quickly as possible. The safety and welfare of the crew remains the top priority of Union Maritime.”
The latest incident comes less than two weeks after nineteen crew members were kidnapped from the tanker Nave Constellation off Bonny Island, Nigeria.
“With the latest kidnap of 20 Indian crew off Lomé, this brings the total number of kidnapped Indian personnel within West Africa to 89 since Jan 18, thus making Indian nationals the highest volume of kidnapped personnel operating in West Africa,” Dryad Global informed.
“This is however not the largest incident involving the kidnap of Indian personnel, with one larger event originating offshore Benin on Feb 1, 18 involving the kidnap of 22 Indian personnel from the MV Marine Express.”
The maritime security company further said that the newest incident is the 10th maritime security incident and the 4th kidnapping incident in the waters off Togo this year.
“The waters of Togo and Benin have thus far experienced a very slight reduction in number of incidents when set against those of 2018, however, with 5 kidnaps within 2019 against 0 in 2018 there has been a significant increase in serious maritime crime and there is a direct increase to the risk facing vessel and crews within this area,” Dryad Global noted, adding that pirates are likely to be using a mothership vessel to aid operations deep offshore.
Note: The article has been amended since initial publishing as the attack occurred off the coast of Benin, not Lome, Togo.