Nigerian pirates release crew of hijacked tanker in Gulf of Guinea

Some good news on the MT Cotton, the Maltese-flagged tanker which was hijacked last week off the coast of Gabon. The crew of 24 has been released. For this, should all be thankful.

However, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea remains an international menace and it is incumbent upon the international community (US, EU, China, Russia… I’m looking at you!) to implement the same counter-piracy measures for West African littoral that have been so successful along the East Africa coast.

Nigerian pirates release 24 crew members, but ransack tanker

MT Cotton.

Twenty-four Indian crew members of MT Cotton, a tanker, which was hijacked by Nigerian pirates off the coast of Gabon, Africa, last week, were released on Monday. The crew, which includes sailors from Mumbai, is expected to reach India in two weeks’ time.

Director-General of Shipping, Gautam Chatterjee said, “MT Cotton was released at 8.30 am IST on Monday. All crew members are safe and no one is in need of immediate medical attention. However, pirates have looted the crew. Right from valuables to food, medicines, even their clothes and footwear were not spared. The pirates also escaped with 3,100 metric tonnes of crude fuel of the total 10,000 metric tonnes in the ship. Presently, the vessel has been instructed by the owners to sail westwards and away from the coast.”

The shipping ministry is unaware of whether a ransom was paid for the crew’s release. “We were really worried since all crew members were Indians. The ship was captained by Shishir Wahi,” said a ministry official.

The tanker – mainly used for ferrying crude petroleum, is owned by a Turkish company, ‘Genel’, and the crew was manned by a company called ‘V Ships’. All crew members have spoken to their respective families, the official said, adding that the sailors were still on the vessel.

The partially-loaded tanker – with a capacity of 23,248 tonnes – was boarded by pirates while awaiting its turn to berth at Gabon’s Gentil Port for the loading of cargo on July 15. Worried officials of the shipping ministry had been trying to establish contact with the tanker for the past three days, according to the vessel operator.

Crew of 2 ships in custody of somali pirates for 2 years

Meanwhile, the shipping ministry said thatseven crew members of the ship Asphalt Venture and a member of the ship Albido continue to be in the custody of Somalian pirates for the past two years. Shipping ministry sources said that a ransom of $3 million had been sought for the release of the crew of Asphalt Venture, while the pirates had demanded $ 0.5 million for the release of the crew member from Albido.

http://www.mumbaimirror.com/mumbai/crime/Nigerian-pirates-release-24-crew-members-but-ransack-tanker/articleshow/21258360.cms

Pirates hijack tanker in Gulf of Guinea, 24 hostages

While we’re still focused on piracy along the East African coast (and rightly so… let’s not take our eyes off that ball) we should be paying increased attention to piracy in the Gulf of Guinea – West Africa’s own “Pirate Alley.” International support must be provided to local, poorly-equipped navies. They cannot win this fight alone.

Pirates Hijack Tanker Off Gabon as Shipping Risks Spread

Pirates have hijacked an oil products tanker with 24 crew on board off the Gabon coast, the vessel’s operator said on Wednesday, as a surge in such attacks in West Africa’s mineral-rich Gulf of Guinea threatens regional shipping.

The pirates are thought to have boarded the Malta-flagged Cotton tanker, carrying a partly loaded cargo of fuel oil, on Monday near Port Gentil, Gabon, in the first reported attack in that region in the past five years, Turkish operator Geden Lines said.

“The company is in contact with the families of the 24 Indian crew members on board and the appropriate authorities have been contacted,” Geden Lines said in a statement.

The Gulf of Guinea, which includes Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast as well as Gabon, is a major source of oil, cocoa and, increasingly, metals for world markets. International navies are not actively engaged in counter-piracy missions in the region.

“The attack occurred around 200 nautical miles (NM) further south than the previous most southerly attack, which was around 160NM southwest of Bonny Island (in Nigeria) on 26 April,” security firm AKE said.

“It therefore marks a significant expansion of the geographical range of Gulf of Guinea piracy. It also demonstrates the regional nature of the illegal fuel trade, the supply of which tankers such as Cotton are generally hijacked for.”

Unlike waters off Somalia and the Horn of Africa, where ships can move past at high speed with armed guards on board, many vessels have to anchor off West African coastal nations, with little protection, making them a soft target for criminals.

http://www.maritime-executive.com/article/UPDATE-Pirates-Hijack-Tanker-Off-Gabon-as-Shipping-Risks-Spread-2013-07-17/

Iranian Navy plans for maritime security in Gulf region (and beyond)

Stand easy, lads… the Iranians are going to look after all of us.

Iran Navy resolved to protect vessels in free waters: Navy cmdr.

File photo shows Iranian Navy ships during Velayat-90 war games in the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran on January 3, 2012.

Iran Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari has reaffirmed the Islamic Republic’s determination to protect maritime security for the country’s commercial vessels.

“As long as we maintain our maritime presence, we will not allow any intrusion against our commercial ships,” Sayyari said in a Wednesday ceremony.

“So far, apart from escorting more than 2,000 commercial vessels and oil tankers, the Navy has had nearly 150 confrontations with pirates and has arrested and handed over several groups of them to the respective judicial authorities,” he added.

Sayyari pointed out that the Islamic Republic has provided the maritime security as far away as the southern Indian waters down to 10-degree northern latitude and has assisted both Iranian vessels and the foreign ships requesting help.

Iran Navy has been expanding its presence in the international waters since last year, deploying vessels to the Indian Ocean and around the Horn of Africa. It also dispatched two ships via the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean for the first time in February 2011.

Moreover, in line with the international efforts to combat piracy, the Iranian Navy has been conducting anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden since November 2008 to shield the vessels involved in maritime trade, especially ships and oil tankers owned or leased by Iran.

The country has repeatedly clarified that its military might is merely based on the nation’s defense doctrine of deterrence and poses no threat to other countries.

http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/06/26/310958/iran-navy-protects-ships-in-free-waters/