MS Risk Blog

Vessel Reported Missing in the Gulf of Guinea

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India’s minister of external affairs reported on Sunday 4 February that a vessel carrying 22 Indian crewmembers and 13,500 tonnes of gasoline is missing in the Gulf of Guinea after contact was lost in Benin on Friday 2 February. The latest incident, the second to take place this year, has sparked concerns for vessels transiting this region.

The Marine Express tanker, managed by Hong Kong-based Anglo-Eastern, was last seen in Benin’s waters at 3:30 AM GMT on Friday after which contact was lost, an Anglo-Eastern spokesman has disclosed. Anglo-Eastern has reported that the cause of the loss of communication was unknown and that a search was underway, conducted with the help of Nigerian and Beninese authorities. According to the spokesman, contact was lost with the vessel, which was at the Cotonou Anchorage in Benin, West Africa. India’s minister of external affairs Sushma Swaraj disclosed on Twitter that 22 Indian nationals were on board the vessel.

This latest incident comes after a company lost communication with its tanker on 10 January. The tanker had been anchored in Cotonou. According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), after a six-day search the tanker and crewmembers were found safely in Lagos after the tanker owner negotiated with the hijackers.

Maritime experts continue to warn that the Gulf of Guinea has become an increasing target for pirates who steal cargo and demand ransoms, even as piracy incidents have declined worldwide in recent years. While over the last decades piracy-related issues were focused off the coast of Eastern Africa, particularly in Somalia’s waters, in recent years the threat of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea have significantly increased. According to a January report compiled by the IMB, vessels transiting the Gulf of Guinea in 2017 were the target of a series of piracy-related incidents, with IMB highlighting that the waters off the coast of West Africa were a growing concern. According to figures released by the IMB, in 2017 there were ten incidents of kidnap that involved 65 crewmembers, with the incidents being reported in or around Nigerian waters. Globally, sixteen vessels were reported being fired upon last year, seven of which occurred in waters in the Gulf of Guinea.