Photos: Spanish Navy Rescues Heavy Lift Ship from Pirates

Spanish and Equatorial Guinea forces secure the Blue Marlin (Estado Mayor de la Defensa)

Published May 7, 2019 1:51 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Sunday, the heavy lift ship Blue Marlin was hijacked off the coast of Equatorial Guinea. The Spanish Navy and forces from Equatorial Guinea boarded the vessel and secured it early on Monday morning. 

After unloading her cargo in the waters of Equatorial Guinea, the Blue Marlin departed Sunday, bound for Malta. On Sunday afternoon, the ship was approached by a zodiac and forcibly boarded by seven armed pirates. All twenty of the Marlin's crew members were able to secure themselves in the ship's citadel, which is equipped with communications gear and emergency rations.

After the crew alerted the authorities in Equatorial Guinea and at the NATO-led organization Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade - Gulf of Guinea, two helicopters were mobilized from Equatorial Guinea. The authorities also dispatched the Serviola, a Spanish Navy vessel assigned to patrol the region, and an unnamed frigate from Equatorial Guinea. 

At daylight Monday, a team of seven Spanish marines boarded the Marlin and secured the vessel, according to Spain's defense ministry. A larger team of Spanish and Equatorial Guinea forces followed shortly after. No pirates were found, and the crew were unharmed. However, the attackers had fired off weapons during their boarding, and they badly damaged the Marlin's bridge, rendering her unsuitable for navigation until repairs are completed. 

Both naval vessels have since departed, but Equatorial Guinea's navy left five armed guards aboard the Marlin to ensure her security. Boskalis says that it has made arrangements for an oceangoing tug to tow the Blue Marlin to a suitable location. 

All images courtesy Estado Mayor de la Defensa

"I want to express my compliments to our crew for their extremely professional and adequate actions in this life threatening situation. I am extremely grateful  and in particular thankful to the navy of Equatorial Guinea for their quick and decisive response, as well as to the Spanish navy for their assistance via MDAT-GoG. Because of their actions, this hijacking could be ended quickly and our colleagues were brought into safety," said Boskalis CEO Peter Berdowski in a statement Monday.

The incident was the second successful anti-piracy intervention that the Serviola has conducted off West Africa this year. In April, the crew of the Serviola detected a hijacking in progress aboard a Nigerian merchant vessel, and the pirate boarding party fled as she approached. The attackers had stolen the crew's money and possessions while they were aboard, but no seafarers were kidnapped. 

The Blue Marlin may be best known for her service to the U.S. Navy: she is the ship that brought home the damaged destroyer USS Cole after a terrorist attack in the port of Aden in 2000.