The tanker Davide B sailing under a Maltese flag and chartered by a Dutch company has been attacked off the coast of Benin in West Africa by pirates and fifteen crew members were kidnapped. The company De Poli Tankers in Barendrecht announced this on Friday 12 March.

Six crew members are still on board and are said to be doing well. The Davide B had 21 people on board from the Ukraine, Romania and the Philippines.

The search for the fifteen abducted crew members is ongoing. It is feared that they have been taken to the West African coast and are being held until a ransom is paid.

Also read: Why does allowing private security on board Dutch ships take so much time?

More kidnappings and violence in Gulf of Guinea

The tanker was attacked on the high seas about 390 kilometres (about 210 nautical miles) south of the African port of Cotonou. This makes it the furthest recorded kidnapping incident to date.

In the waters called the Gulf of Guinea, the new piracy hotspot, robberies or hijackings are being reported with increasing frequency. Globally, 135 crew were kidnapped from their vessels in 2020, with the Gulf of Guinea accounting for over 95 per cent of crew numbers kidnapped.

In addition, incidents in the Gulf of Guinea are particularly dangerous as over eighty per cent of attackers were armed with guns. The rise in kidnapping incidents further away from shorelines demonstrates the increasing capabilities of pirates in the Gulf of Guinea. This also makes it more difficult to address the problem as the area to be patrolled, by naval or coast guard vessels for example, becomes much larger.

The head of the UN’s International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Kitack Lim, complained only last month that piracy calls for a better approach and more international cooperation.

Also read: ‘Never before did pirates kidnap so many crew in the Gulf of Guinea’

In January, for example, fifteen crew members of a container ship were kidnapped. One person was killed in the kidnapping and the abductees were only released after three weeks on payment of a ransom. They said they had been held in a forest and had received repeated death threats.

Also read: Pirates board container ship off Nigeria and kill crew member

IMB issues warning

Following the attack on the Davide B, the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which keeps track of the piracy situation, is urging ships and crew transiting the Gulf of Guinea to remain alert and not let their guard down. IMB says this attack could signal a reignition of serious kidnapping incidents in the Gulf of Guinea after a period of relatively low activity during the last four weeks after much focus was centred on heightened kidnapping activity in the region.

‘There remains an urgent need to address this crime, which continues to have a direct impact on the safety and security of innocent seafarers. Flag states and seafarer nations are urged to voice their opinion and back the shipping industry in their continued efforts to muster an immediate and meaningful response to this criminal activity,’ IMB says.

IMB adds that crew have been kidnapped from all types of vessels, so all vessels in the area need to stay vigilant.

EU Coordinated Maritime Presences in Gulf of Guinea

In the meantime, the European Council adopted the Coordinated Maritime Presences tool in January. The tool is to increase the EU’s capacity to act as a reliable partner and maritime security provider in the Gulf of Guinea. One of the goals is combatting piracy in the area.

The new tool is a flexible instrument that allows EU member states present in areas of maritime interest to share awareness, analysis and information. At the same time, it ensures a permanent and visible European maritime presence. Coordination takes place on a voluntary basis, with naval and air assets remaining under the national chains of command.

Also read: EU launches CMP concept to tackle piracy in the Gulf of Guinea

Source (in part): ANP

Picture by De Poli Tankers.