Pirates kidnap MSC container ship crew

Six crew have been kidnapped from the MSC Mandy (Credit: Philippe Alès)

Six crew from the Panama-flagged MSC Mandy were kidnapped by pirates 101 km south of Cotonou, Benin, in West Africa just two days into 2019.

The kidnapping of the Russian crew by a group of 8–10 attackers, armed with firearms and blades, was confirmed by Russia’s Maritime and river Transport agency, with the attack occurring shortly after midnight on 2 January while the vessel was sailing from the port of Lome, Togo. There were 26 crew on board, according to the Benin Navy: 20 Russians, 4 Ukrainians, and 2 Georgians. The captain, chief mate, third mate, a boatswain, a fitter-welder, and a cook – all Russians – were reported as kidnapped. The remaining crew were said to be unharmed.

The attack, first reported by the Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade – Gulf of Guinea (MDAT-GOG), was carried out by speedboat, and the pirates all spoke English.

At the time of writing the location of the kidnapped crew remained unknown. The Russian Embassy in Benin stated that MSC had not been contacted by the kidnappers or issued any demands.

MDAT-GOG reported that MSC Mandy had since arrived from Nigeria to the port of Cotonou and new crew members boarded the vessel, including the captain, to replace the crew members who had been taken hostage. The ship left Benin’s territorial waters on 6 January. According to the IMB annual piracy report for 2018 there were 5 actual and attempted attacks near Benin and 23 piracy incidents reported at ports and anchorages in Lagos, Nigeria.