Vessel attacked off Cotonou coast, crew member missing

A member of Benin's anti-piracy team checks on a vessel near the port of Cotonou, Benin. Credit: Photo by Jason Florio/Corbis via Getty Images

An oil chemical tanker was boarded by pirates 45 nautical miles (83 km) from the Port of Cotonou, off the south coast of Benin, West Africa, on 5 March.

It has been reported that the Greek-flagged Minerva Virgo was attacked by five individuals. All but one of the 22 crew members managed to follow security protocol in time and locked themselves in the citadel. The remaining crew member, a Philippine national, is missing and feared abducted.

According the IHS Markit AISLive ship tracking portal, Minerva Virgo was en route to Lagos, Nigeria, from Amsterdam, Netherlands, when the vessel was boarded.

This latest kidnapping follows an incident on board oil tanker Alpine Penelope on 20 February, where 10 crew members were abducted 76 nautical miles off Cotonou. The Liberia-flagged vessel similarly was on the way to Lagos from Ijmuiden, Netherlands. The fate of the missing crew members is still unknown.

“Since 2019, there has been an increase in maritime security incidents involving vessel boardings and kidnappings within the waters off Lomé and Togo. This is, in part, assessed to be due to the increased risks facing perpetrators within the Nigerian exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as a result of enhanced security co-ordination and the increasingly prevalent use of security escort vessels. This, combined with an effective lack of co-ordinated security measures beyond the Nigerian EEZ, has led to perpetrators to travel further in search of high-yield targets,” security consultants Dryad Global commented on the incident.