Two Guards Injured in Pirate Attack Off Benin

ST Marseille (file image courtesy Sea-Tankers)

Published Feb 27, 2018 3:44 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Tuesday, the government of Luxembourg reported that the product tanker ST Marseille was attacked by five armed pirates at an anchorage off Cotonou, Benin. The pirates succeeded in boarding the vessel, and two Beninese guards sustained gunshot wounds in the exchange.

The ST Marseille had no cargo on board at the time of the attack, and the pirates eventually gave up and departed. The crew are unharmed and are all accounted for. Both guards have received medical attention and are in stable condition. 

The ST Marseille is a Luxembourg-flagged tanker operated by French firm ST Management SAS. She has no inspection history. 

Hijackings and kidnappings are a routine risk in the Gulf of Guinea, and the attack on the ST Marseille is just the latest in a string of incidents off Benin:

- On January 10, the product tanker MT Barrett went missing from an anchorage off Benin and was not heard from for two days. She had been hijacked and her crew held hostage, and the pirates contacted the shipowner to make arrangements for their return on January 12. After several days of negotiations, they were released unharmed, and the Barrett was allowed to go on her way. 

- On February 1, the tanker Marine Express and her 22 crewmembers went missing from an anchorage off Cotonou. The vessel was held for several days and released unharmed. 

The problems at Cotonou's anchorage are relatively new, but according to the IMB ICC piracy report, attacks off the Niger Delta continue unabated:

- On February 24, eight armed pirates in a speedboat pursued a container ship 50 nm south of Bonny Island, Nigeria. Thanks to vessel hardening they were not able to hook on a boarding ladder, and they abandoned the attempt. 

- On the same day, about 40 nm off the Bonny fairway buoy, ten pirates in a speedboat opened fire on a reefer under way. Embarked guards returned fire and the attackers abandoned the attempt. 

- On February 18, about 40 nm off Brass, seven pirates in a speedboat opened fire on a tanker under way. Due to vessel hardening they were not able to board, and they broke off the attempt.