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Search Continues for Hijacked Tanker Missing in Gulf of Guinea

hijacked tanker Gulf of Guinea
Earlier this year the Italian Navy assisted another product tanker hijacked in a similar area to the current incident (Marina Militare)

Published Apr 12, 2023 1:49 PM by The Maritime Executive

Calls are going out for international assistance as the search continues for a missing product tanker believed hijacked on April 10 in the Gulf of Guinea. Searches of the region have so far been unsuccessful in locating the vessel which stopped transmitting an AIS signal on Monday in a position last reported 300 nautical miles south of Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire. At the same time, the International Maritime Organization is speaking out on what it sees as a troubling increase in piracy in the region after the success of reducing incidents since 2021.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore representing the vessel’s flag issued a statement confirming that it had received a report that the Success 9, a 4,374 dwt product tanker flagged and managed from Singapore, had been boarded by an unknown number of pirates. Earlier multiple security agencies had speculated that this was the vessel involved in the ongoing incident. The MPA is reporting that there are 20 crewmembers aboard the vessel of various nationalities including one Singapore citizen.

“MPA is working closely with the ship owner, Monrovia Regional Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, and the Information Fusion Centre at the Changi Command and Control Centre to monitor the situation and render the necessary assistance,” they said in their statement.

The vessel is believed to be acting as a bunker tanker in the region under the management of Fortune Ship Management, a company started in 2018 as part of Singapore’s Hai Soon group. Fortune is reported to be currently managing eight vessels as part of Hai Soon’s service which the company says primarily supports fishing industries around the world.

The British-French monitoring effort Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade Gulf of Guinea (NDAT-GoG) issued an alter earlier today saying “the vessel remains unlocated.” At the same time, Reuters is quoting an unmanned “Ivorian security source,” reporting that a patrol boat sent out to assist had been unable to locate the tanker. They are saying that assistance is being requested from Spain and Europe. Multiple navies maintain a presence in the region with the French Navy being the one to assist another tanker that was hijacked at the end of March.

MDAT-GoG is asking masters of vessels operating in the area to report any sighting or unusual activity. “The vessel is believed to be a red hulled tanker with a blue funnel and a white and red logo on the side,” the agency said.

Noting that there had been two incidents in a short period of time, the IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim issued a statement today expressing deep concern. Noting the progress in combating regional piracy over the past two years, Lim also called for sustainable support for the important work of the regional navies to protect seafarers and the operational piracy response.

“I would like to appreciate the regional and international efforts to respond to this disturbing incident. I wish to reiterate that the ongoing threat must be addressed cohesively, involving all relevant actors and including regional entities.”

Two weeks ago, another product tanker was also boarded and went missing in the region. In that situation, the French Navy was able to locate the vessel initially while conducting drone surveillance. When they reached the vessel, the pirates had abandoned the ship kidnapping six crewmembers France reported. The other crew were unharmed and working with the vessel’s owner France escorted the ship to an anchorage. The search is continuing for the kidnapped crewmembers.

There had been no major incidents including boardings reported in the region since the beginning of the year and late 2022. A South Korean-owned tanker was boarded in a similar position south of Cote d’Ivoire, but in that case, the pirates stole oil and left. The Italian Navy patrolling in the region assisted the disabled tanker.