Armed pirates have abducted eight mariners and injured another in an attack on a tanker off the coast of Cameroon, according to Greece’s shipping ministry, the Hellenic Ministry of Shipping and Island Policy. On December 31, the armed attackers climbed aboard Greek oil tanker, Happy Lady, anchored two nautical miles (nm) off the Limboh Terminal in Cameroon. Eight crew out of 28 onboard were kidnapped – among them five Greeks, two Filipinos and one Ukrainian national.
Greece’s state-run Athens-Macedonian News Agency (AMNA) says the government is closely monitoring the situation.
Kidnapped mariners in the Gulf of Guinea
This is the second time a Greek ship has been attacked in two months. On November 4, four of the 24-member crew of the Greek-owned Elka Aristotle were kidnapped. The latest attack brings the tally of kidnapped mariners in the Gulf of Guinea to 57 for the month of December alone.
In November, pirates kidnapped two Indian oil tankers and took hostages off the coast of Benin.
A Vietnam-flagged cargo tanker, Vinalines Mighty was boarded by three pirates on December 29, but all crew were reported safe.
On December 3, pirates kidnapped 18 Indian sailors and one Turkish national off the Hong Kong-flagged vessel, Nave Constellation.
On December 15, another 20 sailors from the Marshall Islands-flagged tanker MT Duke were kidnapped and the incident has been described as the largest kidnapping in West Africa in 2019. All of the 20 sailors were Indian nationals, while a Nigerian crew member was left aboard the vessel. “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 January 18, thus making Indian nationals the highest volume of kidnapped personnel operating in West Africa,” said maritime security risk management firm, Dryad Global.
Who are the pirates?
The Gulf of Guinea has been described as the most dangerous shipping route, constituting more than 80% of crew kidnappings reported globally.
According to Dryad Global, at least two ‘motherships’ operated by the pirates have been identified. The Togo-flagged and Nigerian-flagged pirate motherships patrol on the outskirts of Nigeria’s Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ). “These criminal actors are using the EEZ as a cover from Nigerian forces and the international naval forces,” said Dryad Global chief executive Phil Diacon.
The relatively weak navies and coast guards of the littoral states, unemployed youth and insurgency in the Niger Delta are said to be some of the top contributing factors of piracy surges.