Six Monjasa Crewmembers Recovered from Pirates After Five Weeks

kidnapped crew recovered
Monjasa Reformer was boarded in late March 2023 while off Congo, West Africa (Monjasa file photo)

Published May 8, 2023 1:15 PM by The Maritime Executive

Danish fuel company Monjasa reports that the six crewmembers kidnapped more than five weeks ago in the Gulf of Guinea have been recovered. While saying that it admires the bravery of its crew, Monjasa also used the announcement to again call for political action to address the continuing threat of piracy in West Africa.

The company said that all six crewmembers who were kidnapped from the Monjasa Reformer are now “safely recovered from an undisclosed location in Nigeria,” and that they were in “relatively good health condition given the difficult circumstances they have been under.” The company did not offer details on when the crew were released and did not comment if a ransom had been paid. Monjasa only said that the security incident was concluded today, May 8.

The vessel, the Monjasa Reformer (13,700 dwt) was boarded on March 25 while sitting idle approximately 140 nautical miles off Port Pointe-Noire, Congo while employed in West Africa as part of the company’s marine fuel operations. The vessel went missing with security forces starting a search across the region before it was located five days later off Sao Tomé & Principe in the Gulf of Guinea by a French navy drone. By the time the French patrol boat Premier Maitre L’Her was able to reach the tanker’s location the pirates had fled with six of the 16 crewmembers aboard the vessel. The vessel and its remaining crew were escorted to safety.

“We are immensely grateful for the support received from our professional advisors, navies, and authorities and to all others who have helped us resolve this awful situation,” said Anders Østergaard, CEO of Monjasa Group. He reported that the crew, none of whom are Danes, “have all been receiving medical checks and are now being repatriated to their home countries to reunite with their families.”

Security services are highlighting an increased threat of piracy activity in the region after a strong decrease last year. Kidnappings and attacks on vessels declined dramatically as international forces increased patrols in the region and Nigeria launched new security efforts. The kidnapping of the crew from the Monjasa Reformer was the first abduction incident in 2023 although it has been followed last week by three crewmembers being taken from the Grebe Bulker, a bulker vessel managed by Eagle Bulk Ship Management. That vessel was lying off Gabon when the vessel was boarded and the three seafarers, believed to include the captain of the vessel, were kidnapped. There have been other recent attacks, especially on tankers where the pirates have stolen cargo but not attempted to take the crewmembers.

“Unfortunately, this and other recent and similar hijackings in the Gulf of Guinea clearly demonstrates the need for joint international political action to face these issues once and for all,” the company said in its statement. “Monjasa urges for safe passage routes and safe zones under an international coalition and we will continue working with our partners, authorities, and fellow shipowners for a safe working environment for all seafarers.”

Monjasa has a long history of operating in this dangerous region and this is not the first experience with piracy. In October 2018, the Monjasa tanker Anuket Amber (9,500 dwt) operating under charter to Norbulk Shipping was also attacked in the same general vicinity near Port Pointe-Noire. The crew from the Anuket Amber along with an anchor handling tug the Ark Tze which was also boarded the same day were taken hostage by the pirates. The 12 crewmembers from the two vessels were released more than two months later in January 2019.