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Four Crew Abducted as Incidents Grow in Gulf of Guinea 

increasing pace of boarding and kidnappings in Gulf of Guinea
Agisilaos was the latest vessel targeted by kidnappers- Capital Ship Management photo

Published Nov 30, 2020 7:04 PM by The Maritime Executive

Security experts had warned of the potential for an increased level of pirate activity in the Gulf of Guinea with the end of the Atlantic storm season. In the past few weeks, there has been an increasing level of approaches and boardings supporting the warning and highlighting the dangers of operating in the Gulf of Guinea.

The latest incident took place yesterday, November 29, as a Marshall Islands-flagged chemical tanker reported that it had been approached and boarded. Initially the security services thought it was a possible robbery, but it later turned into a kidnapping of four crew members from the ship. The vessel, the Agisilaos was reportedly sailing approximately 72 nautical miles southwest of Lome when the vessel began evasive maneuvers. She is a 604-foot long 37,663 DWT chemical tanker.

Security companies Praesidium International and Dryad Global both report that the AIS data shows the vessel changing course in a series of maneuvers before slowing. An unknown number of perpetrators were able to board the vessel and abducted four of the 23 crew members, including according to Dryad’s report two Filipinos, one Romanian, and one Russian. The vessel was later able to proceed to the anchorage at Lome.

The ship’s manager, Capital Ship Management, issued a brief statement confirming the kidnapping and saying “Capital has activated its emergency response team, and is working closely with all relevant authorities to resolve the situation as quickly as possible. Our top priority at this moment in time is the safe and timely return of our crew to their loved ones.” They confirmed that the remaining crew members were safe.

The quickening pace of the incidents has raised alarm with numerous calls for increased security activity in the region. Dryad’s analysis reports that this was the 24 confirmed kidnapping incident in the waters of the Gulf of Guinea during 2020. Dryad says a total of 122 crew have been kidnapped from vessels operating in the area this year. 

“While the design of this vessel does not signal any overarching vulnerabilities, this incident highlights the desperation of perpetrators in the region,” said Dryad. They cautioned that as security measures have been increased on smaller vessels, the attackers may increase their activity on larger ships in the region. Dryad predicts, “Further attacks on vessels underway are highly likely, and vessels are advised to exercise heightened caution within and on approach to the Gulf of Guinea HRA.”

Days earlier, on November 25, Dryad reported that the St Kitts flagged general cargo vessel Milan had also been boarded. In that incident, 10 crew members were reported kidnapped. 

The attacks are also happening over a broader area, but not all of them are resulting in kidnappings. Praesidium reports that on November 27 an Italian-flagged bulk carrier, the Resilience, discovered two intruders aboard the vessel while at the Takoradi anchorage in Ghana. In that incident, the borders were believed to be attempting to steal equipment from the ship and the crew was able to chase them away.