One killed and 15 kidnapped in violent pirate attack
In a violent attack in the Gulf of Guinea, pirates have killed one and kidnapped another 15 crew members from the container vessel Mozart. The region is becoming increasingly dangerous with a record number of kidnappings reported in 2020.
The Liberian-flagged vessel was on its way from Lagos to Cape Town when it was attacked about 160 kilometres off the coast of Sao Tome.
The attack was violent and reportedly well-orchestrated. The pirates used explosives to breach the vessel’s citadel to kidnap the crew, reports Reuters. The kidnapped crew members are all Turkish nationals, while the man killed was from Azerbaijan.
According to the Turkish news agency Anadolu Agency, three crew members remain on board of the vessel which has set sail to Gabon. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has spoken by telephone with the ship’s captain, according to his office.
Piracy on the rise
The piracy threat is increasing, especially in the Gulf of Guinea. In addition to more frequent attacks, pirates also increasingly kidnap crew members to ask for ransom. In November last year, the heavy load carrier Zhen Hua 7 also was attacked off the coast of Sao Tome. During this attack, 14 Chinese crew members were kidnapped by the pirates.
In 2020, a record 135 crew members were kidnapped from vessels with the Gulf of Guinea accounting for 95% of total kidnappings, according to figures of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB). The bureau also reported a significant increase in the number of attacks. A total of 195 vessels were attacked last year, 33 more than in 2019. IMB also warns the incidents are taking place further out at sea.
Maersk has called for an international coordinated approach to combat the piracy west of Africa after two of the carrier’s vessels were attacked in a short period of time. “The risk has reached a level where effective military capacity needs to be deployed”, ” Maersk’s head of safety Aslak Ross told Bloomberg. The shipping giant pleads for a coordinated response just like the one that was carried out in the Gulf of Aden eight to ten years ago.