Attacks on two vessels in the past 10 days indicate pirates in the Gulf Guinea are expanding operational range and also becoming increasingly interested in kidnap and ransom.
German boxship Hansa Marburg became the latest vessel to be attacked by Nigerian pirates on April 23, south of Bonny.
It is understood that four crew are missing. According to local intelligence, pirates boarded the vessel and seized two Russians and two Filipinos.
The vessel and cargo are understood to be unharmed.
The vessel was en route from Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. Liberia- flagged, 2007-built Hansa Marburg is the sole vessel owned by Schiffahrts-Gesellschaft Hansa Marburg and Company.
According to Lloyd’s List Intelligence, its P&I insurance is covered by Steamship Mutual Underwriting Association.
Meanwhile, Greece-flagged crude oil tanker Cap Theodora has been attacked twice within a six-day period, according to local intelligence.
On April 16 armed pirates in a skiff approached and fired upon the Euronav-owned tanker off Principe Island, Gulf of Guinea.
According to the report from the International Maritime Bureau, the alarm was raised and distress signals were activated; the fire pump was started; crew went to their emergency stations and citadel; the ship’s speed was increased and evasive manoeuvres were made.
After about 20 minutes the skiff aborted the attack and moved away, leaving the crew and vessel unharmed.
On April 22, Cap Theodora was attacked in position 03.10 N, 007.14 E, according to Dryad Maritime Intelligence.
The vessel was approached by a speedboat with five or six men on board while underway. The men attempted to board the tanker several times. Dryad said the boarding was again thwarted by protective measures enacted by the crew and by defensive manoeuvring.
Dryad said a fishing trawler with a red hull and white superstructure was spotted near by, possibly acting as a mothership.
The tanker continued its voyage with no reported injuries.
Dryad said the defining factor of the first Cap Theodora incident on April 16 was the location of the alleged attack. It added that there were no known pirate groups operating from Principe, furthermore the incident occurred 157 miles south-southwest of Bonny Island.
“If proven correct, this extends the current operational range of groups in the Gulf of Guinea significantly,” it said.
Andrew Varney, director of a private maritime security company operating in the region, Port 2 Port, has linked the three incidents. He said the kidnap of four seafarers from Hansa Marburg indicated a worrying trend for the region.
“That the vessel and cargo were left alone and untouched demonstrates the high-value target that seafarers have become,” Mr Varney said.
The kidnap on board Hansa Marburg occurred equidistant to the attacks on Cap Theodora south of an oil field operated by Total. Mr Varney said: “Hansa Marburg is a container vessel with a low freeboard, greatly increasing the chances for success of a hostile boarding. This latest incident lends credence to the trend of taking vessels underway and the shift to kidnapping seafarers for ransom, as well as cargo theft.”
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