The Ghana Navy has disclosed that the three vessels allegedly attacked by pirates and subsequently declared missing in the Gulf of Guinea have been found and brought to the Port of Tema.
The vessels which were involved in the alleged pirate attacks are MT Fair Artemis, a¬†Greek-owned oil tanker flying Liberian Flag, a Ghanaian registered fishing vessel by name MV Mariner 771 and a South African flagged vessel MT Sampatiki.
Preliminary investigations conducted by the security agencies in Ghana and subsequently reported revealed that none of the three vessels was attacked in the Ghanaian maritime waters as was previously reported. According to Captain Ayola of the Public Relations Department of the Ghana Navy that led the rescue operations, the vessel M V Fair Artemis which was allegedly attacked by pirates on June 4,2014 had 25 crew members on board of which one was a Ghanaian.¬† He explained that the vessel was allegedly attacked in the Togolese Waters, 53 Nautical Miles (NM) from the Port of Tema.
Briefing the media upon arrival of the vessels in the port, the Director General of GPHA, Richard Anamoo confirmed that the MT Fair Artemis was now taking refuge at the anchorage of the Port of Tema awaiting follow up investigations to be conducted with the Interpol to establish the basic facts of the narrative.
He reiterated that the fact that the MT Fair Artemis had immediately returned to the anchorage of the Tema port to seek refuge was an indication of the trust the vessel operators had in the Ghanaian safety and security arrangements adding that the vessel would not have returned to Ghana if her Port was not safe.
He reassured the business community operating with the Ports of Ghana, that safety and security of the two Ports in Ghana was and remains prime to GPHA and can never be compromised at any point in time.
He however advised vessel operators who engage in bunkering and Ship-to-Shore (STS) operations to always stay within the 12NM maritime zone of Ghana and constantly ensure that they have their AIS on for easy surveillance by the Port security. He says it is only when vessels comply with these rules that they can be assured of 24-hour safety coverage, security and Protection from Ghana.
The Director General also assured the shipping community that Ghana‚Äôs waters remain safe and that adequate security is being provided especially by the Navy and the Marine Police as well as the GPHA to continue to protect Port business.
He added that although none of the recent vessel attacks happened within the waters of Ghana all efforts were made by the Ghana navy in collaboration with relevant agencies to secure all vessels involved in the alleged attacks.
Mr. Richard Anamo guaranteed that regular and daily patrols are being conducted on the Ghanaian waters as the GPHA has acquired a purpose built patrol boat to ensure availability of a dedicated boat for security personnel who patrol the coastal waters to ward off potential criminals and pirates.
Throwing more light on the issue, Mrs. Alice Torkornoo, the General Manager in charge of Business Development of Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), recounted that the report of the preliminary investigations of the security team revealed that the MT Fair Artemis engages in bunkering activities in the Gulf of Guinea.¬† On the 4th¬†of June this year, she called the Ghanaian waters as a daughter vessel to carry out Ship-To-Shore (STS) operation with her mother vessel called MT SPORADIS.
She said the vessel had drifted from the maritime zone of Ghana which is 12NM from the Port of Tema to engage in STS operation after it had come to the Port to bunker. She also confirmed that the alleged attack took place at about 21:15 hours on the same day in Togolese waters about 53NM from Tema.
According to the General Manager the crew alleged that four armed men were the first to board the vessel and later joined by 14 other pirates. They alleged that the Chief Mate was the first to be arrested while the Captain was made to summon the rest of the crew to the bridge. The crew members also alleged that the pirates were armed with sophisticated weapons and knives and although they did not suffer serious molestation, a few however sustained minor injuries while their personal belongings including rings were stolen.
She said according to security reports the vessel was released on 11th¬†June, 2014 at about 17:40hours in Beninois waters after they had made away with 3,500 tons of oil cargo.
Mrs. Alice Torkornoo revealed that, the security and intelligence team which boarded the vessel upon its arrival at the Port of Tema after the alleged hijack discovered that the Automatic Identification System (AIS) had been switched off on the 14th¬†of May, 2014 two clear weeks before the alleged hijacking without explanations. She said it was also reported that the crew admitted that the pirates operated all the equipment themselves on taking over the vessel without guidance from the crew. The team also reported that there were visible signs of vandalism but there was no engine log nor any other log book to be traced.¬† The report further indicated that though the crew claimed that that the gauges were vandalized they were able to determine that 3,800Mts of oil was stolen.
¬†The General Manager further disclosed that in a similar incident, a Ghanaian registered fishing vessel, MV Mariner 771 with a 40 member crew of 36 Ghanaians, 3 Koreans and 1 Chinese was also said to have been raided by pirates between the Nigerian and Togolese waters in the same month of June. She said unlike the ‚ÄúMT Fair Artemis‚Äù, the crew members onboard the ‚ÄúMariner 771‚Äù were molested by the pirates. About 50 tons of oil and 10 tons of fish were subsequently seized. She said combined security efforts of the GPHA Security, Marine Police Unit, GMA, BNI, and National Security and led by the Ghana Navy yielded results and the fishing vessel ‚ÄúMariner 771‚Äù is now back to base in Ghana with all crew members safe.
In a another development a South African flagged vessel MT Sampatiki was moving from Nigeria to Lome when she was raided about 150 nautical miles from the North of Port of Lome. The pirates upon discovering that the vessel was empty, ordered their captors to cook a meal that would suffice all the 34 persons onboard including the 17 hijackers. The crew complied and after enjoying the meal the pirates disembarked and allowed MT Sampatiki to continue its journey according to Mrs. Torkornoo.