Seven crew kidnapped off Equatorial Guinea

Pacific Warden AHTS current location. Credit: IHS Markit AISLive shiptracking

Seven crew members were kidnapped from an anchor handling tug supply (AHTS) vessel, Pacific Warden, off the coast of Equatorial Guinea last week.

In a statement earlier this week, operator Swire Pacific Offshore (SPO) confirmed that a group of attackers boarded the vessel at approximately 5 am local time on 20 November, while she was supporting offshore field operations. The remaining eight crew members were unharmed. “Local authorities and the Navy of Equatorial Guinea responded quickly to the incident,” Swire said.

“The safety of the people on board our vessel is always our top priority. SPO will do everything possible to secure the safe and timely return of the missing crew members, in coordination with their families and relevant authorities,” the company said in a statement.

From reports on the incident, the Pacific Warden was attacked by two speed boats when transiting from Luba, Bioko Island to Serpentina/Zafiro field complex, Dryad, a maritime intelligence company, said. The vessel is currently located off the coast of Bioko Island, according to IHS Markit AISLive Ship Tracking portal.

“This is the third kidnapping incident within 30 nm of the western side of Bioko Island within 2019, with two additional incidents involving vessels being fired upon at a distance of 50 nm. It is assessed that the piracy conducted in this area originates from within Nigerian waters. The pirate action group (PAG) involved is believed to be a well-established grouping with significant resources and the capacity to conduct deep offshore operations via a mothership vessel.

“It is assessed that the PAG involved is seeking to conduct operations beyond the Nigerian economic exclusion zone [EEZ] seeking to exploit the relative absence of established security presence in the 60 nm channel between the Nigerian EEZ and Bioko. All incidents within 2019 in this area have involved offshore support vessels with particularly vulnerable vessel parameters,” Dryad said last week.

The entire Gulf of Guinea is currently a piracy hotspot. Both merchant vessels and the offshore oil and gas sector are being targeted, and there have been at least four incidents of piracy and kidnapping in November alone.

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