Growing piracy in Gulf of Mexico hot spot

Offshore supply vessel MV Natalie. Credit: Dietmar Hasenpusch

Maritime crime incidents off Mexico continue to rise as pirates boarded offshore supply vessel (OSV) MV Natalie and stole valuables from the crew on 24 July.

An alert from maritime security company Dryad Global stated that the pirates reportedly boarded MV Natalie early morning within hours of darkness when the vessel was close to the ODIN offshore platform, 22 km off Coatzacoalcos. The report said that the crew were subjected to violent armed boarding and robbery of personal belongings, but it is unknown if any cargo was stolen or if there were any injuries. A broadcast received from the vessel stated, “We would like to inform you that at this moment, pirates are getting on board the ship Natalie, which is near the ODIN platform.”

The news emerged as part of an increasing crime off Mexico’s Campeche, Tabasco, and Veracruz states, which incorporate attacks on vessels and oil platforms.

In June, Safety at Sea reported that these attacks – or at least the ones reported to the International Maritime Bureau via the piracy reporting centre – had risen by 300% since the beginning of January 2020.

However, while some experts said that this stark statistic was likely due to an improvement in incident reporting rather than an increase in attacks, others noted that the reason was due to a change in criminal patterns and the modus operandi of the perpetrators, with more manned vessels being targeted by pirates.

Since January 2018, 20 fishing vessels and 35 oil assets – either platforms or OSVs – are known to have been targeted in incidents, such as petty theft, hostage taking, and shots fired. It is thought that there is a significant portion of attacks going unreported; Mexico’s publication La Silla Rota reported on International Transport Workers’ Federation’s claim that an average of 16 attacks took place per month between January and September 2019.