BW FPSO targeted with explosives in ‘unique’ Nigerian attack

Security consultancies say militants likely behind raid on vessel, with kidnappings unconfirmed.

A BW Offshore FPSO has been raided by gunmen who kidnapped nine crew on Thursday in what security consultancies are calling a “unique” attack.

Reports have said the 50,000-barrel-per day FSPO Sendje Berge (built 1974) was targeted by an unknown number of armed men in the early hours, 30 miles south west of Bonny Island.

BW Offshore said the vessel was “subject to an attack by pirates” in which the Nigerian nationals were abducted.

“The incident onboard the FPSO has ended and none of those remaining onboard have suffered physical injuries,” it added.

“BW Offshore is cooperating with local authorities, represented on site by the Nigerian Navy.”

Sendje Berge is situated on the Okwori field in Nigeria on contract to Addax Petroleum.

Initial reports indicated that up to 11 personnel may have been kidnapped from the vessel.

The security consultancy called the attack “unique” in terms of offshore incidents in Nigerian waters.

Level of weaponry beyond pirates?

“Both the manner of attack and target are beyond the usual targeting and attack methodology of pirate action groups within Nigeria. Reports indicated that explosives were used during the attack,” the firm said.

“Whilst unable to be verified, the use of such weapons (particularly grenades and RPG’s) has thus far not been seen in wider piracy reporting in West Africa.”

Another security consultancy, Risk Intelligence, said the vessel was in lockdown.

The outfit called the raid “well-coordinated”, with two speedboats attacking separately so that one was able to draw a security vessel away from the FPSO.

“That’s not typical piracy modus operandi and from the limited information we have so far. This looks much more like some militant group making a statement,” Risk Intelligence added.

Militants restless

Within recent weeks, a number of militant groupings within the Niger Delta have released statements condemning the actions of the federal government in refusing to sack officials they believe are corrupt.

A group operating under the auspices of the Coalition of the Niger Delta Agitators has publicly withdrawn a ceasefire it had previously negotiated with the state.

The kidnap of foreign personnel by groups involved in militancy is not unusual for the Niger Delta, but is less common in the offshore domain.

“It remains highly likely that personnel will be held for ransom. However if confirmed as an act of militancy, negotiations are likely to also focus on political concessions tied into both the release of personnel and cessation of activity,” security consultancy said.

The latest attack brings the total number of kidnapped personal in maritime incidents within West Africa to 72 in 2020.

Kidnap reporting within 2020 is currently tracking at 51% higher that that of 2019 across the same time period.

Protection lacking?

The attack would be significant for all oil companies, Risk Intelligence said, but its importance should not be overestimated either.

The Okwori field has been attacked in the past during the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) insurgency between 2006 and 2010.

“While security procedures have been improved since, the field is relatively close to the coastline and protection was not on the same level as for the bigger fields in the vicinity,” Risk Intelligence added.

“This field one only had one security vessel present which is merely a repurposed offshore tug. The bigger fields usually have two security vessels circling around the facilities and those are more likely to be purpose-built security vessels.”