Chinese fishing crew abducted in pirate attacks off Gabon

African Kalmia. Credit: HASENPUSCH. DIETMAR

Four Chinese crewmen from two fishing vessels were abducted and the captain and chief officer of one of the vessels were killed in a series of pirate attacks in Gabon waters.

A spokesperson for the Gabon government, Edgard Anicet Mboumbou Miyakou, confirmed on 22 December 2019 that four vessels anchored in Libreville’s harbour were attacked by pirates about 3 AM local time that day. The four vessels involved in the incident were two fishing vessels, Guoji 867 and Guoji 838; the bulk carrier African Kalmia; and a domestic cargo vessel identified as Tropic Down.

Miyakou said that the captain of Tropic Down, which was operated by Satram, was killed in the attack. The captain and chief officer of one of the fishing vessels were also said to have been killed.

He further added that the kidnapped crew members were working for Sigapeche, a Gabon-Chinese joint venture fishing company.

On 23 December, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang confirmed at a regular press briefing that the kidnapped crew are indeed Chinese nationals and that their whereabouts remain unknown.

Geng said, “The Chinese embassy [in Gabon] has asked Gabonese authorities to immediately launch rescue efforts to spare no effort to rescue the Chinese personnel. We will continue to follow closely.”

The 28,148 dwt African Kalmia, built in 2016 and owned by US trading group Seaboard Corporation, was also attacked; however, there have been no updates as to whether any of the crew were hurt.

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is a growing menace, with the International Maritime Bureau reporting that the area accounts for 82% of crew kidnappings in the world.