5/04/2019 Posn 4.22 – 3.78

Pirates armed with rifles and grenade launchers boarded a merchant ship in the Gulf of Guinea and stole cash and valuables from the crew.

They then stayed with the ship for four days in what was effectively a hijack.

The incident came to light after a Spanish Navy patrol vessel, the P-71 SERVIOLA, observed the ship behaving erratically.

The ship’s Automatic Identification System (AIS) was switched off and it failed to respond to radio contact.

Details of the incident were provided by the Spanish Navy on April 10.

It said its patrol vessel dispatched a search party of marines and as they approached the ship the pirates fled in a small craft.

The ship’s captain reported that the pirates had been in control for four days and had prevented him making radio contact. He said his crew of Nigerian seafarers were unharmed.

The Spanish marines and their patrol vessel stayed at the scene until they were satisfied the pirates were not going to return.

The Nigerian merchant ship then set course for Lagos.

The deployment of the offshore Spanish patrol vessel P-71 SERVIOLA in the Gulf of Guinea is part of international efforts to improve maritime security in the region.

The Spanish Navy did not disclose exactly where or when the P-71 SERVIOLA made its intervention but it released a short video of part of the operation.

Pirates operating out of West African have made the Gulf of Guinea one of the world’s most dangerous sea areas for merchant shipping.

There were at least 14 attacks on ships in the first three months of 2019 and almost 30 seafarers are believed to have been abducted.

Crews should exercise extreme caution throughout the Gulf of Guinea.

They should avoid slow steaming and watch for the approach of small vessels, especially at night.

Evasive action and the use of citadels have proved effective in frustrating pirate assaults. Ship operators should also consider vessel hardening measures.

Source: Gray Page