Duke Crew Released by Pirates, One Died in Captivity
Following the attack on the oil tanker MT Duke and abduction of 20 crew members on December 15, U.K.-based shipowner Union Maritime has issued a statement confirming that 19 of the crew members have now been released.
One able seaman was evidently taken ill and died shortly after capture. Union Maritime said in a statement: “We are seeking further information from those crew members that have been released and a full investigation will be held into the AB’s demise.”
All the crew who have been released have undergone medical checks and are reported to be well, given the circumstances of their ordeal. They will be debriefed by the local authorities and then return home to their families.
The Marshall Islands-flagged tanker was attacked as she sailed from Luanda, Angola, to Lomé, Togo. Six pirates boarded the vessel about 115 nautical miles south-east of Lomé and kidnapped all but one on board - believed to be a Nigerian national. The remaining crew of 20 Indian seafarers were kidnapped.
According to a report from Dryad Maritime late last year, the specific methodology used are unclear, but given that the incident occurred a significant distance offshore, the pirates are likely to have used a mothership to aid operations.
The incident was the largest kidnapping event in West Africa last year, and it followed the kidnap of 19 Indian nationals from the Nave Constellation on December 4. The vessel was boarded and four personnel were kidnapped, three of which were recently released with the fourth dying from illness whilst captive.
It incident is the 10th maritime security incident and fourth kidnapping incident in the waters off Togo within 2019. However, Dryad Maritime notes that it is not the largest kidnapping in the region. In February 2018, 22 Indian seafarers were kidnapped from the Marine Express offshore from Benin.
According to the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) annual piracy report, the number of crew kidnapped in the Gulf of Guinea increased more than 50 percent from 78 in 2018 to 121 in 2019.
An increasing number of kidnap incidents are occurring beyond the Nigerian EEZ, and Dryad Maritime says this may reflect more effective policing within the zone. Pirates could now be considering that the costs of working further of shore require a larger payback - kidnapping rather than theft. “This realistically could explain the recent uptick in kidnappings within the last 18 months against a broader trend showing a reduction in incidents.”