Hijacked tanker released after six days

The AISLive chart shows the current location of Barrett, anchored off Lagos, Nigeria. Credit: IHS Markit

A product tanker seized by armed robbers and held for six days has been recovered, its owner has announced. The vessel, with 22 crew members on board, had been anchored off the coast of the west African country of Benin when it was attacked.

Barrett, owned by UK-based Union Maritime, was reported missing on 10 January. The company said it had received contact from "pirates" on 12 January confirming the vessel had been taken. "A resolution process began, which ultimately led to the release of the vessel and all crew on board on 16 January, " a company statement said.

The crew were all reported safe and back in the Nigerian city of Lagos.

"Union Maritime regularly operates from ports in this region. The safety and security of all our crews is our highest priority. We operate to a rigorous safety and security protocol, with crews repeatedly drilled in all emergency procedures," the statement added.

Barrett. Credit: Aart van Bezooijen

Barrett, a 2005-built tanker registered with the Marshall Islands, previously visited Togo and Lagos, Nigeria, before heading for Cotonou, Benin.

The recent 2017 Annual IMB Piracy Report states that there had been no reported attacks in Benin, with only three reported incidents of actual or attempted attacks last year.

Martin Ewence, a former Royal Navy commander and director of security firm Blue Forge Consulting, told Fairplay sister title Safety at Sea that while numbers were slightly down in the Gulf of Guinea and there had been no hijackings in the area in 2017 that the region shows the “highest number of kidnappings by a large margin”.

He said attacks were violent and with the highest use of guns, adding that despite the Nigerian Navy reinforcing its anti-piracy and oil theft capability, “it still appears unable to bring maritime crime [down] both within and outside its territorial waters.

“Within the Niger Delta [the main area for oil theft], security is effectively subcontracted to a private security firm, while within territorial waters, non-state private armed security personnel are not permitted to operate.

"Militant groups continue to operate effectively in the delta and offshore, driven by greed, poverty, and desperation at government inefficiency and corruption. Corruption at the highest levels and poorly equipped state security forces will not counter the menace in the near future.”

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