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One Crew Member Killed, Six Kidnapped in New Gulf of Guinea Incident 

pirate attack off Equitorial Guinea
Pirates appear to be targeting opportunistic targets in the region (file photo)

Published Dec 30, 2021 6:39 PM by The Maritime Executive

As if to prove that the scourge of piracy is far from over despite the reports of the significant decrease in the Gulf of Guinea region, a new attack occurred overnight. It appears that one crew member was killed during the attack and as many as six others have been kidnapped from what may have been an opportunistic target.

MDAT-GoG, the monitoring operation for the region, reports a boarding at 3:00 a.m. local time on December 30. They are placing the attack in the territorial waters of Equatorial Guinea, which would make it the third attack in the region in December 2021. They are reporting the boarding while saying the incident is over.

International security analysts Dryad Global is providing additional details in their alert. They said the assault took place on a Chinese-owned fishing vessel in the Mbini area of Equatorial Guinea. Dryad places the vessel approximately 12 nautical miles northeast of the FPSO Ceibo. 

It is understood that the vessel was approached by a speedboat with an unknown number of perpetrators, says Dryad. “The perpetrators are believed to have been armed and one crew member is understood to have been killed in the attack. Reporting indicates that six personnel, including the captain, have been kidnapped from the vessel.” The crew members are understood to be from Ghana and Mali.

Security analysts have warned that as the security efforts increased in the region that the pirates would continue to target opportunistic vessels. While they still have the capacity to target larger commercial vessels, such as the recent assault on a Greek-owned containership chartered to CMA CGM, they are also seeking out smaller vessels that they perceive to be more vulnerable.

“Prior to the recent attacks, waters off Equatorial Guinea have historically witnessed significantly less reporting than those of neighboring waters,” writes Dryad in its analysis of the new attack. “Pirates have historically shown a capacity to avoid the maritime security footprint within the Gulf of Guinea and are likely to seek to continue to exploit weaknesses where these are found. Pirates have also shown an intent to reinforce success in areas where operations have been successful and as such the risk to vessels operating within both Equatorial Guinean waters and those offshore is increased.”

The ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported that piracy and armed robberies of ships and their crews reached a nearly 30 year low during the first nine months of 2021. The report highlighted that the Gulf of Guinea was showing strong decreases in all forms of crime. The IMB reported just 28 incidents of piracy and armed robbery in the first nine months of 2021, in comparison to 46 for the same period in 2020.

Dryad tallies that this is the eleventh kidnapping incident within West Africa in 2021. They reported it brings the total number of crews kidnapped in offshore incidents in the region to 82. Most of those, however, were early in 2021 before the increased efforts in recent months by the international forces.