First pirate boarding in months reported in the Gulf of Guinea
The first ship in more than three months was boarded in the Gulf of Guinea on Sunday April 3, with analysts suggesting it was a random event. The ship and crew are both declared safe and sound today.
MDAT-GoG, the surveillance and reporting cooperation between the British Royal Navy and the French Navy issued the first alert to the incident. They placed the vessel about 300 nautical miles south of Lago, Nigeria, reporting that unknown persons had boarded a vessel. Today they updated saying the incident has been resolved with the crew and the vessel safe.
Details remain vague but Dryad pointed out that this was an apparent break after the significant break in reporting. They said the crew would have reached the citadel aboard the ship. “Pirates were said to have been aboard the ship for approximately four hours, during which time they allegedly attempted to gain access to the citadel,” Dryad wrote in his alert.
The pirates are believed to have left the ship, but it is unclear whether they left when they could not find the crew or were scared off by increased security patrols and support military in the region.
The vessel is identified as an eight-year-old bulk carrier, the Gabriel’s Arch, registered in the Marshall Islands. Her AIS data shows the 61,300 dwt bulk carrier has been laying off West Africa since mid-March. She had left Houston in mid-February and was likely awaiting her next contract, meaning she could have been seen as a target of opportunity after being inactive for such a long time.
The most recent incident again shows that the area of activity has also moved away from the coast. Dryad points out that he was more than 110 nautical miles from the Nigerian EEZ.
Dryad security analysts in the group’s new annual report highlight the dramatic decline in piracy in the Gulf of Guinea that began in 2021. They highlight the Nigerian security effort known as Deep Blue as one contributor however saying that there were likely several elements contributing to the decline, including an increased international presence. A Danish frigate that attracted attention when it hired pirates in late 2021, for example, was part of the heightened security, but the ship was withdrawn last month after Ukraine was invaded.
The number of ships boarded across the region has more than halved according to Dryad’s report, with incidents of boardings of kidnapped ships and crews falling by 60 percent in 2021 to more than 85 percent.
MDAT-GoG in its tracking mostly highlights ship theft incidents in 2022 and only this one boarding in the last 30 days. At the end of January 2022, pirates fired on a ferry in Equatorial Guinea but the security forces on board returned fire and were able to scare the pirates away. An incident also occurred at the end of January further north in a region between Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire where a small tanker truck was boarded. The pirates are said to have stolen oil from the vessel and left, with the last significant incident taking place in late 2021 when pirates killed a crew member and kidnapped up to six others from a fishing vessel owned by Chinese operating near Equatorial Guinea.
Experts warn, however, that despite the drop in activity, additional security measures must be maintained. Pirate groups remain in the area and may continue to approach opportunistic targets.