Crew Tied Up and Robbed on Product Tanker in Atlantic Far from Africa

Atlantic piracy incident
Map highlights the unusual position far into the Atlantic of the reported piracy incident (IMB)

Published May 20, 2024 1:05 PM by The Maritime Executive


In a rare instance of piracy outside the hot zones such as off Somalia, the Singapore Strait, or the Gulf of Guinea, security reports are indicating the crew of a product tanker was robbed in the middle of the Atlantic last week. The crew was uninjured, and the pirates fled after taking money and some of the ship’s property.

The ICC International Maritime Bureau reports an unnamed product tanker was boarded by 10 armed pirates carrying AK-47 rifles while the ship was underway approximately 363 nautical miles south-southwest of the Caper Verde islands. Security experts are noting that this is beyond the normal operating range of Gulf of Guinea pirates with the officials in the Cape Verde islands saying they were investigating.

According to the details provided to the IMB, the pirates took control of the bridge and ordered all crewmembers to muster on the bridge. Their hands and feet were tied. The engineers were told to stop the engines and permit the vessel to drift in the Atlantic. 

The pirates took cash and other valuables and the IMB speculates that they were attempting to steal the cargo or bunkers from the vessel. 

The crew was moved into the steering gear room where they were told they would have to remain for two hours. The pirates told them the door was rigged with explosives. However, when they emerged, the pirates were gone and no cargo or bunkers had been stolen.

“The pirates had damaged communication, internet, navigation equipment, and the air control pipes for the main engine and cylinder oil flow valves before escaping,” IMB writes in its report.

The incident took place on May 17, with IMB saying the crew was able to navigate the vessel to its next port.

The identity of the pirates remains unclear. The Cape Verde Islands are approximately 350 miles west of Africa. Security experts in the past have warned of threats along the coast near countries such as Mauretania but typically that is along the coastline.