- The vessel was coming from Angola and is the largest abduction since the beginning of the year in the Gulf of Guinea
- The Marshall Islands-flagged vessel, Duke was attacked by six pirates about 115 nautical miles (about 213km) southeast of the coast of Lome, the capital of Togo.
- In the recent months, the shipping industry has warned of increased incidents of piracy and kidnapping in the Gulf of Guinea, particularly around Nigeria.
Twenty Indians aboard an oil tanker, MV Duke, have been kidnapped by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea, in West Africa, where piracy has been on the rise. One crew member on board, who is believed to be a Nigerian, was not kidnapped. The Indian Foreign Ministry has said that the issue is being handled by the relevant authorities. “Our mission in Abuja has taken up the matter with the Nigerian authorities, as well as authorities of the neighboring countries,” the Ministry said in a statement.
The V Ships Management Pvt. Ltd., managers of the oil and chemical product tanker Duke, reported that they lost contact with the vessel in the early hours of the morning. The Marshall Islands-flagged vessel, Duke was attacked by six pirates about 115 nautical miles (about 213 km) southeast of the coast of Lome, the capital of Togo. The vessel was coming from Angola and is the largest abduction since the beginning of the year in the Gulf of Guinea, Union Maritime Ltd announced in a press release.
The ship’s operator, Union Maritime, wrote on its website that the craft was “attacked and boarded” while carrying fuel oil to Lome from Angola, and added that the company was working with relevant authorities to resolve the issue. A statement from the owners and management of MV Duke said that they were working closely with the relevant authorities to try and establish contact with the vessel and the crew, adding that their well-being and safety was a priority at the moment. It added that the managers are contacting the families of the crew so as to keep them posted on the events.
According to analysts from Dryad Maritime, the methodology used by the pirates is unclear since the incident occurred a significant distance offshore. It is therefore believed that they might have used a mothership to aid operations. Dryad Maritime says, “the waters of Togo and Benin have thus far experienced a very slight reduction in number of incidents when set against those of 2018. However, with five kidnaps within 2019 against zero in 2018, there has been a significant increase in serious maritime crime and there is a direct increase to the risk facing vessels and crews within this area.”
In the recent months, the shipping industry has warned of increased incidents of piracy and kidnapping in the Gulf of Guinea, particularly around Nigeria. Early this month, 19 crew members were kidnapped from a supertanker off the coast of Nigeria, chartered by a French company, Total, to deliver crude oil to India. All of them, apart from one, were Indians. In November, four crew members were taken from a small Greek tanker moored in a port in Lome. The vessel’s manager on Friday said that the pirates released three crew members who were taken hostage. The other hostage died from illness while in captivity.
According to international Maritime Bureau nearly 82% of crew abductions take place in the Gulf of Guinea.