Aframax tanker Orfeas has gone missing for more than two days off Ivory Coast in an incident that could signal the extended reach of West African pirates.
The 2008-built, 73,400 dwt tanker lost contact with Grace Management, its owner and manager, at around 0100 hrs local time on Saturday when it was at anchorage off Abidjan.
Grace Management said the vessel sailed southwards without orders or explanation, with its last known position indicating that it might be going towards Lagos, Nigeria.
“The managers have immediately informed all relevant authorities and have requested assistance from the authorities in neighbouring countries, as well as from other third-party sources, in order to locate the vessel as soon as possible,” a company statement said.
While the number of tanker hijackings in the Gulf of Guinea has been increasing, they have been limited to waters off Nigeria, Benin and Togo so far.
“If Orfeas has been hijacked it will be the first such attack off Ivory Coast in recent years, and will mark a significant expansion of piracy risk across the region,” security firm AKE said.
According to a weekly report from AKE, a German-owner tanker was just hijacked 80 miles off Togo last Friday before being released within 24 hours. Some unknown quantity of the gasoline cargo on board was stolen.
The Bahamas-flagged Orfeas, part of the Heidmar Star Tankers pool, was carrying 32,068 tonnes of gasoline to Abidjan when it went missing.
The ship was due to carry out two ship-to-ship operations with Marshall Islands-flagged lightering vessel Admiral L three miles off Abidjan, but it lost contact after completing the first operation.
A total of 24 crew were on board when the incident occurred. Two are Greek nationals and 22 are Filipinos.