First pirate attack on the Gulf of Guinea in 2019 sees 6 crew members of a ship kidnapped

MSC Mandy
  • A container ship belonging to the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) has been attacked in the Gulf of Guinea.
  • Six crew members have been kidnapped.
  • The MSC has secured the vessel and its cargo and ensured the safety of the remaining seafarers on board

Six crew members have been reported missing after a pirate attack on the sub-Panamax container ship, the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) off the coast of Cotonou, Benin in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG).

The MSC confirmed the attack and said the incident occurred on Wednesday, January 2, 2019, when MSC Mandy was 55 nautical miles (NM) off Benin in the GoG.

Speaking to Graphic Business, a source with the MSC said “a small containership was attacked on January 2, 2019, in the GoG and so far six crew members have been reported missing,” 

“The MSC quickly secured the vessel and its cargo and ensured the safety of the remaining seafarers on board,” he added.

The source stated that they will add no further information for now “out of respect for the missing crew members and their families.”

But further information indicates that the vessel in question had since been diverted to an anchorage off Lagos, Nigeria after the incident, where it remained as at Thursday, January 3.

The attack was first reported by the Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade - Gulf of Guinea (MDAT-GoG), a NATO partnership operated by the French and British navies. MDAT-GoG collects daily voluntary reports from vessels underway in the Gulf of Guinea, an area with high piracy risk.

In the GoG maritime piracy, especially kidnapping is a serious issue of concern. 

According to Oceans Beyond Piracy, 100 seafarers were kidnapped in the waters off the Gulf of Guinea in 2017, and EOS Risk Group counted 35 more in the first half of 2018 alone. 

In December 2018, the IMB ICC piracy reporting centre was informed of one attempted attack on a chemical tanker and one successful boarding of an OSV underway, both off Nigeria. Millions of dollars have been spent on additional maritime security measures for the region, but local authorities have had only limited success in interdicting and foiling attacks. 

Meanwhile, the reach of Nigerian pirates has expanded from the historic centre of activity off the Niger River Delta to include waters off Benin and Ghana, well to the west. However, most attacks are still concentrated in the vicinity of the petroleum hub of Bonny Island, with pirates searching out vessel targets as far as 100 nm from shore.

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