An Antigua & Barbuda-flagged, German-owned container ship was attacked and boarded by 14 heavily armed pirates off Nigeria which resulted in five crew members being kidnapped. The second time in a matter of days that crew members are taken from a ship attacked in the Gulf of Guinea.
The German boxship, City of Xiamen, was attacked by fourteen heavily armed pirates in two boats on 25 April¬†at around 2200 LT in approximate position 03:48N – 005:54E, around 36nm south of Brass, Nigeria, while en route from Lome, in Togo, to Onne, Nigeria.
A distress call on Channel 16 VHF was intercepted by another vessel in the area stating that City of Xiamen reported being pursued by two speed boats. After the initial VHF distress report contact was lost and it was understood the vessel was boarded by pirates. The vessel‚Äôs crew included 1 Russian, 11 Sri Lankan, 1 Burmese and 4 unknown nationalities according to the last ITF records, and is operated in Germany.
The two craft reported to have carried out the attack were described as¬†one supply boat with the name Utai 8, a crew change vessel reported hijacked earlier the same day, and the other a speed boat with orange hull and blue wheelhouse, approached and boarded the container ship underway.
The ship had raised alarm and the crew took shelter in the citadel. The pirates, however, were able to breach the citadel and then kidnapped the Master, Chief Officer, Chief Engineer, 2nd Engineer and 3rd Engineer and then escaped with cash belonging to ship and crew respectively. The remaining crew were reported safe. The vessel was reported to have arrived in Malabo Road late 27/early 28 April.
The Liberia-flagged container ship, Hansa Marburg, was attacked and boarded by pirates 105nm South of the Nigerian coast on 23 April. Four crew were kidnapped as the pirates escaped.
As the focus shifts from Somali-based piracy to the Gulf of Guinea, where attacks are more violent and hijacks for the cargo of oil is for a shorter period, the growth in kidnapping of crew has raised dire concerns within the seafaring community.
The increased pirate activity over the last several days comes after a few weeks of relative inactivity, however, the reasons behind this flurry of attacks are unknown. Recent Nigerian Navy and Joint Task Force operations have seen arrests of pirates and detention of illegal oil bunkering vessels, but since a statement earlier this year by a claimed MEND representative that attacks would intensify, this is the most attacks to have occurred.