Two Kidnappings in Three Days by Sea Piracy in Gulf of Guinea

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On Monday, four seafarers were kidnapped from the 95,000 dwt tanker Elka Aristotle off the coast of Togo, according to the Togolese Navy.

“Around 0300, the tanker boat Elka Aristotle was attacked around 10 nautical miles from the port of Lome by armed individuals,” said the service in a statement.

According to Reuters, the Elka Aristotle had at least one guard on board, but the security force’s attempts to fend off the attackers were not successful. A guard was shot and wounded in the exchange, and the pirates proceeded to abduct four out of the 24 seafarers on board. The victims include one Greek national, one Georgian and two Philippine nationals

Pirates operating in the Gulf of Guinea have kidnapped a total of 13 seafarers on two European-flagged ships in the last three days.

In the latest attack, four crew members on a Greek oil tanker were kidnapped after pirates boarded the boat off the coast of Togo on Monday morning, while nine people were kidnapped from a Norwegian cargo boat during a similar incident off the coast of neighbouring Benin on Saturday.

The four kidnapped crew on the Greek ship consist of two Philippine nationals, one Greek and one Georgian, the Togolese navy said.

A security guard was also injured after being shot during the attack.

The vessel’s manager, European Product Carriers Ltd, confirmed in a statement that the vessel and remaining crew were safe.

“The safety and security of our people is of paramount importance to us and we are doing everything we can to ensure their prompt and safe release.”

‘We are reconsidering whether our ships should sail in this area’

On Saturday, nine crew members, including the ship’s captain, were taken off the MV Bonita vessel while docked near Lome, as it prepared to unload gypsum.

The owners of the Norwegian ship, JJ Ugland, confirmed the entire crew is Filipino and said their families and been contacted and “will be kept informed”.

Their condition has been described as “good, taking into account what they have been through”.

It is not clear how many crew members avoided being kidnapped.

Øystein Beisland, JJ Ugland’s President, has reiterated that bringing the nine crewmembers back to safety is their “highest priority”.

“The Ugland Emergency Response Team are handling this situation as per contingency plans, and they are in contact with relevant authorities.”

“In light of the ongoing incident, we are reconsidering whether our ships should sail in this area”.

In a Facebook post, the port of Togo said that “surveillance has been further strengthened” following Saturday’s incident.

According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), the Gulf of Guinea remains a “high risk area for piracy and armed robbery” in 2019.

This region, it added, makes up 86% of hostage-taking of crew members and 82% of crew kidnappings.

Cyrus Mody, Assistant Director at IMB, told Euronews the Gulf of Guinea is the “kidnap capital of the world right now”.

Despite this, the number of crew taken hostage across the world from January to October has declined from 2018 (112 to 49).

“Although incidents are down, the Gulf of Guinea continues to be a concern for piracy and armed robbery-related activities with kidnappings of crew members increasing in both scale and frequency,” IMB director Pottengal Mukundan said in a statement last month.

Other countries in the Gulf of Guinea which have seen instances of attacks on vessels include Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Ghana.

Nigeria has seen 29 separate ‘attacks’ from January to September this year, the most of any country in the world, while the only four hijackings of ships across the globe before October took place in the Gulf of Guinea.

Second kidnapping in three days

The incident follows shortly after the kidnapping of nine seafarers from the Norwegian-flaggecd freighter Bonita off the coast of neighboring Benin

On Saturday morning, pirates boarded the Bonita at an anchorage about eight nautical miles off the Port of Cotonou. They abducted the master and eight other crewmembers, according to authorities in Benin.

“The Ugland Emergency Response Team are handling this situation as per contingency plans, and they are in contact with relevant authorities,” said operator JJ Ugland. “The families of the crew members have been contacted and will be kept informed.”

The Bonita, her remaining crewmembers and her cargo of gypsum docked safely in Cotonou later the same day.

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