- A government spokesperson said the four vessels that were anchored in the bay were targeted in the overnight attack.
- The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang on Monday said that the crew members’ whereabouts remained unknown.
- According to the International Maritime Bureau, from January to September, 82% of maritime kidnappings occurred in the Gulf of Guinea.
An attack by pirates in Libreville harbor in Gabon has left a captain dead and four Chinese sailors abducted. The Gabonese captain was a commander of a vessel operated by Satram company, while the four Chinese were working for Sigapeche company. “Pirates attacks were perpetrated . . . against four ships,” said Edgar Anicet Mboumbou Miyakou, the government spokesperson.
Miyakou said the four vessels that were anchored in the bay were targeted in the overnight attack. On Monday, the authorities searched for the four Chinese crew members who were taken hostage by pirates in speedboats off Gabon’s capital over the weekend. Two of the ships were fishing vessels belonging to Sigapeche, a Sino-Gabonese company. The third ship belonged to the maritime transport company Satram, based in Port-Gentil, Gabon, while the fourth was a cargo vessel flying a Panamanian flag.
Pirate attacks are unusual in the harbor, but extremely frequent in the surrounding Gulf of Guinea. The West African country’s defense and security forces were deployed “to secure the area and track down the perpetrators with the cooperation on Interpol and sub-regional bodies,” Miyakou added.
Geng Shuang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said Monday that the crew members’ whereabouts remained unknown. He added that the Chinese Embassy has called upon Gabonese authorities to “immediately launch rescue efforts to spare no effort to rescue the Chinese personnel. We will continue to follow closely.”
This comes a few days after twenty Indians aboard an oil tanker, MV Duke, had been kidnapped by pirates in West Africa. The ship’s operator, Union Maritime, wrote on its website that the craft was “attacked and boarded” while carrying fuel oil to the Togolese capital, Lome, from Angola. They added that it was the largest abduction since the beginning of the year in the Gulf of Guinea.
The Gulf of Guinea has become the world’s new epicenter of pirate attacks, looting, and kidnapping for ransom. It stretches some 5,700 kilometres around 3,500 miles, from Senegal to Angola. According to the International Maritime Bureau, from January to September, 82% of maritime kidnappings occurred in the Gulf of Guinea.
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, nineteen 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 but one of the crew members were Indians.
Early last month, four crew members aboard an oil tanker— two Filipinos, a Greek, and a Georgian— were abducted off the Togolese coast. The pirates later on released three crew members who were taken hostage. The other hostage died from illness while in captivity. Nine Filipino seamen were snatched off a Cotonou, the economic capital of Benin last month.