PORTSMOUTH, UK – Maritime intelligence provider Dryad Maritime has warned of an increased threat of crew kidnappings in the Gulf of Guinea.
Two Nigerian-flagged vessels were attacked last week, with six crew members kidnapped.
The M/V Prince Joseph 1 was attacked offshore Akwa Ibom state, closely followed a day later by an assault on the offshore tug M/V Asha Deep off Bayelsa state, a hotspot for recent incidents.
Over the past three months Dryad has recorded attacks on eight vessels with a total of 20 crew members kidnapped. Gangs have been operating across a wide offshore area, from Nigeria to Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. Late last week, 12 crew members were still believed to be in captivity.
Ian Millen, Dryad Maritime’s director of intelligence, said: “The two incidents this week point to the operation of at least two separate criminal gangs using the cover of estuaries and the riverine system of the Niger Delta to take their victims into captivity. If recent patterns are followed, it is likely that the latest attacks will have targeted senior crew, such as the master and chief engineer, as these are the most likely to attract higher value ransom payments, often due to the fact that a large number will be non-Nigerian.”
In one probable attempt last year, a vessel was targeted around 160 nautical miles out to sea.
Millen said the true level of this type of maritime crime is not well understood. “Ship owners whose crews are targeted are understandably tight-lipped during sensitive ransom negotiations, but their silence after the event does little to warn other seafarers of this threat or help others to understand the true scale of the problem…
“The key to success lies in finding the right mix of measures for the individual ship and its operating environment…there is much that vessels can do to help themselves, from remaining alert and observing best practice to having well drilled crews who understand what to do and how to call for assistance in the event of danger.
“The instances of unsuccessful attack that we have seen have almost invariably been where ships have been aware of the threat and have taken action to avoid being boarded.”