Korean Tanker Boarded by Pirates for the Second Time in Gulf of Guinea

pirates board product tanker in Gulf of Guinea
Product tanker was boarded 274 nm south of Cote d'Ivorie with the pirates stealing oil from the ship (SK Shipping file photo)

Published Nov 25, 2022 12:40 PM by The Maritime Executive

South Korean officials and security operations monitoring the Gulf of Guinea are confirming that a South Korean-owned product tanker was boarded by pirates near Cote d'Ivoire and later released. The incident, which served as a reminder that piracy continues to be a danger in the region, was the second time that the same product tanker had been boarded in 2022.

The monitoring operation MDAT GOG (Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade Gulf of Guinea) raised the initial alarm of a possible incident. They reported that communication had been lost with the 5,700 dwt product tanker B. Ocean on Wednesday, November 23. The vessel’s last known position was reported as 247 nautical miles south-southwest of Abidjan. MDAT GoG requested masters operating in the area report any sighting of the vessel or suspicious activity.

The vessel, which is registered in the Marshall Islands is owned by South Korea’s SK Shipping. Data showed that the ship had departed Abidjan on October 1 and was standing by offshore possibly awaiting its next contract. Reports indicated it had been in the anchorage at Freetown, Sierra Leone departing on November 17. Security group EOS Risk Group reports that an analysis of the AIS data shows the vessel “made a number of dubious course changes before slowing to 1kt” on November 23.

South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported late today that they had heard from the crew of the B. Ocean a little over 24 hours after the vessel went silent. They confirmed that the tanker had been boarded by eight armed attackers. Some reports are indicating that the crew was able to reach the citadel, while MDAT GOG and the Korean officials are reporting all of the crew, which consisted of the South Korean captain and chief engineer and 17 Indonesians, are safe.

The pirates reportedly stole petroleum from the tanker and damaged the ship’s equipment.  The ministry reported that the captain had contacted the shipping company after the pirates left the tanker. He informed them that the ship was still operational and would be headed back to Abidjan. South Korea also asked an ally nation to escort the ship back to Abidjan.

In January, the same vessel was hijacked approximately 50 nm south of Abidjan. In that incident, the armed boarders are reported to have stolen 977 tons of diesel before releasing the B. Ocean. 

This new incident is shown as the fifth in the past 30 days according to MDAT GOG’s situation map for the region. The monitoring program, which is jointly run by the British and French navies, shows that this was the fourth boarding and that there was also one robbery. Two of the incidents occurred near Nigeria while there were also a boarding in the Takoradi anchorage off Ghana and another to the west near Sierra Leone. Overall, however, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported in its latest update issued in October that piracy in the region was at a 30-year low.