The US Maritime Administration issued an updated advisory concerning piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, which will be implemented from January 14, 2020 to July 12, 2020.
The US MARAD reported 129 incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea that occurred in the GoG region in 2019. Although this is an 11% decrease from 2018, kidnappings are still occurring with the latest on March 6, 2020, when pirates attacked the Greek-flagged chemical tanker Minerva Virgo in the Gulf of Guinea.
In 2019 there were 33 kidnapping incidents, out of which two involved crewmembers being taken from hijacked vessels when pirates disembarked.
Also, three out of the six hijacked vessels in 2019 were petroleum tankers, likely being hijacked for cargo theft (refined petroleum products).
US MARAD notes that almost half of the kidnappings for ransom in the Gulf of Guinea took place around the Niger Delta and target vessels (tankers, tugs, offshore supply vessels, and cargo vessels) with expatriate crew, due to their potentially high ransom value. Criminals or armed KFR groups have been known to fire upon targeted vessels prior to attempting to board them.
KFR groups generally kidnap two to six high-value crewmembers to include the master, chief engineer, and any Western crewmembers, but there were several incidents over the past couple of years where more than ten crewmembers were kidnapped during a boarding.
In light of the above, US MARAD advises
All suspicious activities and events must be reported to the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center at 800-424-8802 in accordance with 33 CFR 101.305.
Concluding, mariners transiting this area should visit the new Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade-Gulf of Guinea (MDAT-GoG) website and the NATO Shipping Centre website for additional information on threats and specific recommendations for their vessels. U.S. flag vessels anchoring, transiting, or operating in this region must comply with their approved Vessel Security Plans.
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