Crew Kidnapped from Tanker in Ongoing Incident in the Gulf of Guinea

pirates board product tanker in Gulf of Guinea
Pirates are believed to have taken two crewmembers in the latest incident on a product tanker in the Gulf of Guinea (file photo)

Published Jan 2, 2024 2:21 PM by The Maritime Executive


The security services are reporting an ongoing incident in the Gulf of Guinea where at least two crewmembers have been taken from a tanker operating in the area. Unconfirmed reports are suggesting that the captain might be among those taken from the vessel which was in the region near Equatorial Guinea. (Nigerian officials confirmed on January 4 that nine crewmembers were kidnapped, including the captain and chief engineer.) 

The reports are coming from EOS Group and private services unconfirmed by the joint British-French monitoring effort, Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade Gulf of Guinea (MDAT GoG). They have not recorded incidents in the Gulf of Guinea since early December when a fisherman was killed in an attack on fishing boats off Nigeria where the pirates also took engines and fishing gear. In November, some material was also stolen off a supply vessel while it was anchored off Angola.

In the latest incident, the chemical tanker Hana I (13,000 dwt) registered in Tuvla was sailing from Abidjan in the Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) to Douala in Cameroon, according to the alert from EOS Risk Group. The tanker was reported to be in the vicinity of Malabo, on Bioko island, the port city and capital of Equatorial Guinea, on January 1, when it was boarded by an unknown number of pirates. EOS in its alert says the initial information is that two crewmembers were taken.

The Equasis database reports the vessel, which was built in 2007, is owned and managed out of Singapore. It has been operating as the Hana I for Raffles Shipmanagement since 2019 with its recent AIS data showing it operating around Cote d'Ivoire. 

The current AIS signal reports the vessel has now arrived in Douala, Cameroon. It is unclear what support the vessel might be receiving from local authorities. 

Tankers have been the target of attacks in the Gulf of Guinea over the course of 2023. Reports have been that the pirates often steal a portion of the vessel’s cargo. They took over a South Korean product tanker Success 9 (4,374 dwt) in April 2023 and later released the crew and vessel after taking fuel. There was a similar incident with another product tanker off Cote d’Ivoire in December 2022.

In March 2023, the Monjasa Reformer (13,700 dwt) was boarded while sitting idle approximately 140 nautical miles off Port Pointe-Noire, Congo. After holding the tanker for a few days, the pirates kidnapped six crewmembers who were held for six weeks. The French Navy located the missing vessel and with assistance from Nigeria, it was moved safely to port.

The ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) had warned at mid-year 2023 of renewed piracy activity in the Gulf of Guinea. They called for continued vigilance in the international security efforts to prevent a resurgence to the level of activity in previous years.