Four killed and three kidnapped off the coast of Nigeria

Position of Ambika vessel. Credit: IHS Markit's AISLive

On 2 January, security consultancy Dryad Global received reports of a firefight that broke out aboard Ambika, 5.5 km from the entry of the Ramos River, Nigeria.

The 3,500-dwt dredger, built in 1979, was raided by pirates, resulting in multiple losses of life. Four security guards have reportedly been killed, with two injured in the ensuing shoot-out and a further three crew members abducted.

The dredger is operated by Deep Frontline Shippers of Nigeria, which could not be contacted. IHS Markit’s AISLive ship tracking portal shows that the trailing suction hopper dredger is on its way to the Forcados oil terminal off the coast of Nigeria.

“After heavy exchange of fire, the pirates were able to board the vessel and abducted three crew members [two Russians and one Indian], leaving behind five crew members,” a representative from Dryad said.

“Incidents within this general area occur with relative regularity; however [they] are commonly found within the creeks and rivers. As such, the majority of legacy incidents in this area have focussed upon the opportune kidnap of locals and personnel involved in the protection and manning of oil and gas infrastructure. In addition to this, the hijacking and theft of passenger vessels within the creek areas is a common occurrence,” Dryad added.

These kinds of targets are seen as low risk by pirates and provide a valuable source of income and resources for them.

This incident kicks off the new year with a bang and shows there is no rest for piracy, as exemplified by the most recent spate of attacks over the holiday season in the Gulf of Guinea.

Eight crew were seized off Happy Lady at the end of December 2019 off the coast of Cameroon, and pirates were successfully fought off by the Nigerian Navy one day prior after they boarded a bulker, Drogba, as it transited between Lagos and Port Harcourt. This incident happened hours after the Vinalines Mighty bulk carrier was attacked as it sailed between Cameroon and Liberia.