Twenty Indian seafarers kidnapped off Togo

A member of an anti-piracy team checks on a vessel in West Africa. Credit: Jason Florio/Corbis via Getty Images

A tanker was attacked on 15 December as it sailed from Luanda, Angola to Lomé, Togo. The Marshall Islands flagged vessel Duke was boarded by six pirates about 115 nautical miles south-east off the coast of Lomé.

All but one of the crew were kidnapped in the incident – the remaining seafarer is believed to be a Nigerian national, while the 20 abducted crew were Indian nationals.

It is not clear how the attack was carried out, given the large distance from the shore, however it is believed that the pirates employed the use of a mothership to carry out the operation.

Following the attack on the Nave Constellation on 4 December where 19 Indian nationals were detained by pirates, this is the largest kidnapping event that has been carried out in West Africa this year.

According to experts at Dryad Maritime, a security and risk management solutions provider, “The waters of Togo and Benin have thus far experienced a very slight reduction in number of incidents when set against those of 2018. However, with five kidnaps within 2019 against zero in 2018, there has been a significant increase in serious maritime crime and there is a direct increase to the risk facing vessel[s] and crews within this area.”

This year has seen a significant rise in piracy incidents in the Gulf of Guinea, with West Africa consistently taking the lead in terms of numbers of attacks and kidnappings, in the International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre’s quarterly reports. Despite the increased international co-operation in military exercises to combat this rise, piracy still remains a major threat to vessels in these waters.