Turkish tanker with 24 Indians hijacked off Gabon coast

T. E. Raja Simhan | | Updated on: Mar 12, 2018

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Piracy on the rise off West Africa

Incidences of piracy on merchant ships seem to be increasing in West Africa, with action moving away from notorious Somalia on the East Coast in the Arabian Sea. The hijack of a Turkish oil-chemical tanker on Monday morning with an all-Indian crew of 24 by pirates off the coast of the West African nation Gabon only highlights the trend.

Cotton, the Malta-flagged vessel, was taken over by suspected pirates 15 miles off the Gentil Port. The 2007-built ship was waiting for a berth in the Gulf of Guinea at the time of the hijack. The tanker lost contact with its Turkish owner Geden Lines after leaving Port Gentil.

A statement from Genel Denizcilik Nakliyati A.S., which operates the tanker, said the pirates took over the vessel on Monday, off the coast at Port Gentil, Gabon, where the vessel was due to load cargo. The company is in contact with the families of the 24 Indian crew members on board and the authorities have been contacted, it said.

Somali piracy has fallen to its lowest levels since 2006, focusing attention on violent piracy and armed robbery off the coast of West Africa, said ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which tracks global piracy attacks on merchant ships. The agency recorded 138 piracy incidents in the first six months of 2013, compared with 177 incidents for the corresponding period in 2012. Seven hijackings were recorded this year, compared with 20 in the first half of last year.

The number of sailors taken hostage dropped by nearly half to 127 (334). In the Gulf of Guinea, there were 31 piracy incidents, including four hijacks, so far this year. There was a surge in kidnappings at sea with a wide range of ship types being targeted. This is a new cause for concern in a region already known for attacks against vessels in the oil industry and theft of gas oil from tankers.

There has been a worrying trend in the kidnapping of crew from vessels well outside the territorial limits of coastal states in the Gulf of Guinea, said Pottengal Mukundan, Director, IMB. The London-based agency has been monitoring piracy since 1991.

In April 2013, nine crew members were kidnapped from two container vessels, one of which was 130 nautical miles from the coast. Pirates have used mother ships (large ships), some of which were smaller off-shore supply vessels hijacked by pirates to conduct the attacks.

Armed pirates in the Gulf of Guinea took 56 sailors hostage and were responsible for all 30 kidnappings reported so far in 2013. One person was reported killed and at least another five injured. Attacks off Nigeria accounted for 22 of the region’s 31 incidents and 28 of the kidnappings. Meanwhile, in Gulf of Aden and Somalia, eight piracy incidents, including two hijackings were recorded in the first six months of 2013, with 34 seafarers taken hostage.

> raja.simhan@thehindu.co.in

Published on July 17, 2013
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