Pirates kidnap 15 sailors in Gulf of Guinea off Benin: company


Pirates have kidnapped 15 crew members from a chemical tanker in the Gulf of Guinea after boarding the vessel off the coast of Benin, the ship’s Dutch owners said on Friday.

The latest incident of high-seas piracy happened on Thursday afternoon around 210 nautical miles (389 kilometres) south of Cotonou when pirates attacked the chemical tanker Davide B, the De Poli tanker company said.

“Fifteen crew members have been taken… while six other seafarers of the vessel are safe and unhurt,” said the company, based in Barendrecht, just south of the Dutch port city of Rotterdam.

The six crew members “remain on board of the ship,” the De Poli Shippingmanagement added.

The Maltese-registered Davide B was sailing from Riga to Lagos in Nigeria when the attack happened.

“The company’s management is now greatly concerned about the well-being of the missing crew,” said company spokesman Cor Radings.

“Our main priority now is to establish contact with the missing crew in order to secure their earliest and safe release,” he told AFP.

He could not give details about the missing crew members, but they are believed to be Russian, Ukrainian and Filipino.

The rest of the sailors were unhurt on the ship which was “currently attended by security personnel who have arrived on scene,” Radings said.

He added that there was no further information about the physical condition of the kidnapped sailors.

– Kidnap for ransom –

Kidnap attacks on ships for ransom have become common in the Gulf of Guinea which runs from Senegal to Angola, taking in the southwest coast of Nigeria.

The perpetrators are usually Nigerian pirates.

The Gulf of Guinea accounted for more 95 percent of all maritime kidnappings last year — 130 out of 135 cases, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which monitors security at sea.

So far this year there have already been 16 acts of piracy in the area, according to maritime security consultancy Dryad Global.

Shippers and western military officials say pirates are increasingly targeting a “soft spot” between Nigeria’s naval capacity and the limited foreign presence beyond its waters, where gangs know a response is less likely.

Shippers say pirates now raid farther out, and their violence and sophisticated tactics are prompting pleas from the firms for a more robust foreign naval presence, like the mission to curb Somalia piracy a decade ago.

– Call for action –

Since December, the Danish, Indian and Cypriot shipping lobbies have all called for action against piracy.

Denmark’s industry, with an average 30 to 40 vessels in the Gulf of Guinea each day, is lobbying for “coalition of the willing” to operate a naval deterrent while helping local forces build capacity.

Earlier this month, the global Maersk shipping giant called for a major naval mission to protect the busy but dangerous shipping lanes off the West African coast.

“In 2021 we should not have seafarers who are afraid of sailing anywhere because of piracy, this is not the age of piracy,” Aslak Ross, head of maritime standards at the Danish giant, told AFP.

Source: AFP

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