Liberian Coast Guard Rescues Fishing Boats and Crew from Piracy Attack
The Liberian Coast Guard is reporting a successful operation working with the neighboring countries of Cote d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone to capture a band of pirates that were attacking Chinese fishing vessels. The effort comes as incidents of piracy have been on the rise again in the western parts of Africa and the Gulf of Guinea.
Fishing boats have been a susceptible target. Two Chinese registered fishing vessels, Hai Lu Feng 13 and Hai Lu Feng 14, were transiting in tandem on the Wouri River in Cameroon, when they were attacked at the end of June. Security service EOS Risk Group reported members of the Cameroon military were aboard the fishing boats and were able to defend them from the attack.
The latest incident began on July 22 according to the report when the Sierra Leone Navy Joint Maritime Operation Center issued an alert about a piracy attack. The message reported that two Chinese-owned commercial fishing vessels, the Aliman and the Shenghai-2, had been assaulted by pirates. The incident took place in the waters of Sierra Leone with the navy reporting that the two vessels which appear to have been working in tandem had been boarded by approximately eight pirates.
The fishing vessels were robbed and the pirates seized 23 crewmembers, including six Chinese and 17 citizens of Sierra Leone, departing aboard the Shenghai-2. Working with the navies from Cote d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone, the Liberian Coast Guard began tracking the vessel. On the afternoon of July 23, they reported that the vessel was crossing from the waters of Sierra Leone toward Liberia.
The Liberian Navy responded by dispatching two vessels with 11 sailors to search for and intercept the pirates aboard the fishing boat. After about 12 hours of searching, they were able to locate the fishing boat as it was heading toward Monrovia. The intercept took place about nine nautical miles offshore.
According to the reports from the navy, the pirates were continuing in an attempt to get away from their forces when they made a forced boarding to secure the fishing boat. The troops were able to secure the open, lower deck area but were immediately met by gunfire from the pirates.
One pirate and two of the crewmembers from the fishing vessels were quickly caught, while three other pirates fled in a life raft.
The other pirates with the remaining crewmembers barricaded themselves on the bridge of the fishing boat. After a standoff, the Liberians report they stormed the bridge of the vessel and were able to capture another pirate and free the remaining crewmembers. Three additional pirates had fled into the vessel and were attempting to hide in the compartments of the fishing boat.
The Liberian Coast Guard reports the Shenghai-2 was brought to the base on Bushord Island. There they continued to search the vessel and clean up from the operation. Four weapons were also retrieved.
Officials from Sierra Leone congratulated Liberia on the successful operation noting that they are looking at how to further curb the menace of piracy in the region. Sierra Leone said it would also engage with its counterparts in Liberia on future operational strategies against piracy.