A Danish tanker flying the Liberian flag was attacked by pirates off Congo-Brazzaville in the Gulf of Guinea and contact has been lost for three days with the crew of 16 sailors, its owner announced on Tuesday (March 28th).
During this attack which took place on Saturday evening 138 nautical miles west of the port of Pointe-Noire, in international waters, pirates were able to board the Monjasa-Reformer And “the entire crew made it to safety in the ‘citadel'” (armored shelter) of the ship, said the owner Monjasa. No communication with the sailors of this maritime supply vessel, 134 meters long and with a capacity of 13,700 tonnes, has taken place since, the company said in a press release.
According to Congolese authorities, three men attacked the boat, which was in the area to supply ships with fuel. “It was three men who took him hostage and since then the crew can no longer be reached”, said an official of the port of Pointe-Noire contacted by AFP. The shipowner confirmed that he had not heard from them since Saturday evening, without being able to say whether or not the crew was taken hostage. “Communications are currently down and we are working with local authorities to restore them and understand the situation on board”says its press release.
At the time of the incident, reported at 2239 GMT, the ship was immobilized with 16 crew members on board, according to Monjasa. Contacted by AFP, the shipowner, which employs 568 people around the world, said it had no additional information to communicate, in particular on the nationalities of the sailors. According to the Danish press, they are not nationals of the Nordic country.
A “Vessel missing notice has been issued for passing boats to let us know if they encounter it”Noel Choong, head of the Piracy Reporting Center at the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) in Malaysia, told AFP. “We encourage coastal authorities with resources to help us. We need regional cooperation”he added.
Crucial sea route
A crucial maritime route bordering countries rich in hydrocarbons, the Gulf of Guinea, which stretches over 5,700 km between Senegal and Angola, was for several years the new black spot of global piracy. But the attacks have dropped recently thanks to the joint efforts of coastal countries and European states.
Denmark, a major merchant navy power via its giant Maersk, had notably sent a frigate in the fall of 2021. The mission had been marked by a shootout with suspected pirates which had cost the lives of five of them.
In 2022, only about twenty clashes were recorded in the Gulf of Guinea, according to the Center for Cooperation and Awareness of Maritime Information (MICA). There were 52 in 2021 and 115 in 2020, according to the maritime security expertise body based in Brest in France, which saw an example there. “encouraging”. Since the beginning of the year, two attacks have been reported in the area, the last on March 2, according to the BMI.
The case of Monjasa-Reformer show that “the problems of piracy off the west coast of Africa are far from being solved”, the Danish Shipowners Association said on Tuesday. With the war in Ukraine, “we fully understand (…) that Denmark’s naval military capability is needed elsewhere”, she added. But, according to her, countries with ships in the region, European “in particular, should coordinate their presence more, in order to best cover this vast area”.
Most of the attacks in recent years have been carried out by Nigerian thugs attacking ships in fast boats. Some have captured larger fishing vessels which they use as bases for their speedboats to raid further out to sea.