The LPG carrier Gaz Providence came under attack in February: Credit: Geir Vinnes
Nigerian security forces have begun the hunt for five crew members of a Panama flagged general cargo vessel who were kidnapped by pirates on Wednesday 30 July.
Reports have emerged that the pirates boarded the 1,276 dwt Oya 1 while underway around 15 n miles south west of Bonny Island, Nigeria. It had been travelling from the port of Takoradi, Ghana, from where it departed on 27 July.
The vessel alerted the Nigerian navy, following the attack, who escorted the ship to port.The IMB said, “The incident was reported to the Nigerian Navy who responded and located the ship. It was reported that some crew members were missing. [Once] informed, the Nigerian Navy vessel towed the ship to a safe port for investigation.”
There has been no statement from the vessel's owners since the incident although it is believed that five of the crew taken were Moroccan, and only one crew member, the cook, escaped.
It is the latest in an escalation of piracy attacks off the coast of Nigeria at a time when global attacks for the second quarter of the year hit a five-year low.
Speaking to Safety at Sea, crisis and response experts NYA International said the country remains a hot spot for kidnappings.
Its global kidnapping report for July, due to be released on 3 August, said, “Nigeria continued to be affected by a high frequency of kidnappings in July. Southern coastal areas witnessed criminality and militancy while the Islamist group Boko Haram continued to impact security in the north.”
It said in a high-profile incident on 26 July suspected Boko Haram militants kidnapped members of a survey team searching for oil reserves in the Lake Chad Basin, in northeast Nigeria. The following day, officials reported that at least 30 people, including civilians and members of the military, had been killed during rescue attempts.
Meanwhile, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), between April and June this year Nigeria dominated reports of seafarer kidnappings. In the first half of the year armed pirates have been responsible for the abduction of 31 crew in five reported incidents, of which nine have since been released safely.
The general cargo vessel BBC Caribbean was attacked by pirates on 5 February around 31 n miles south west of the Bayelsa Coast, Nigeria, and eight crew members were kidnapped. Just two days later, on 7 February 2017, armed pirates boarded the Gaz Providence LPG tanker underway around 60 n miles south of Bonny Island, Nigeria, and three crew members were kidnapped but were then released safely on 28 February.
Another kidnap occurred 32 n miles south west of Bonny Island on 30 March, with six crew taken from bulk carrier Eleni M, but that were then released safely on 20 April.
Two further attacks were reported, one on 19 April around 10.8 n miles south of Brass, Nigeria, where eight crew members of the offshore tug Atlantic Mann and six crew members from the general cargo vessel Glory were kidnapped by armed pirates on 17 May around 21 n miles south of the Nigerian coast.
IMB data reveals that violence against crews continues with half of all reports of vessels being fired upon coming from Nigeria.