Maritime News

Pirate attacks off West Africa

23 February 2018

There has been a spate of pirate attacks on vessels in West African waters; an area that has been subject to piracy, hijacks and kidnapping of crews for some years.

In one recent incident on 19 February, reported to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC), six pirates armed with AK-47 rifles attempted to board an oil tanker around 25 nautical miles off Brass, Nigeria. They made seven attempts to hook an aluminium ladder on to the tanker’s railing but were thwarted by the evasive manoeuvres taken by the master, who also increased speed and transmitted a distress message. The pirates then fired at the tanker and moved away. A Nigerian Navy team arrived at the scene finding the tanker and the crew safe.

In an incident on 17 February, three armed people were spotted on board a tanker anchored at Cotonou, Benin. The alarm was raised, the PRC was notified, and the crew retreated to the citadel. The PRC informed the Benin authorities, who dispatched three patrol boats. A navy team boarded the tanker and confirmed that it was clear of pirates, however there was gunshot damage to a porthole and damage to other property.

On 15 February, four pirates in a speedboat chased and fired on a containership around 40 nautical miles off Bonny, Nigeria, but moved away due to the presence of a Nigerian naval escort boat.

A tanker that had been anchored at Cotonou, Benin was reported missing by its owners on 1 February. On 6 February, the owners confirmed that the tanker had been released and the crew and cargo were safe.

On 24 January, armed pirates chased and attacked a tanker around 48 nautical miles off Brass, Nigeria, but abandoned their attack due to the presence of armed naval personnel on board.

While most of these incidents involve attacks on tankers, usually to steal their cargo and/or kidnap vessels and crew for ransom, smaller vessels also face dangers. On 9 February, men armed with AK47 assault rifles boarded a fishing vessel 10 nautical miles off Idenao, Cameroon and kidnapped three crew members. The Cameroonian authorities are investigating the incident.      

Other recent incidents of armed robbery and crime at sea reported to the 24-hour worldwide PRC include the following.

  • Intruders were spotted on board a bulk carrier anchored at Macapa, Brazil on 15 February. The alarm was raised and the crew mustered. The robbers escaped with ship’s stores.
  • Three robbers armed with knives boarded a tanker anchored at Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela on 15 February, and threatened one of the crew. The alarm was raised and the crew mustered. The robbers escaped with stolen ship’s stores.
  • Five robbers armed with knives attempted to board a bulk carrier anchored at Chittagong, Bangladesh on 11 February. The crew prepared the fire hoses to use against the robbers, who escaped empty-handed
  • Four robbers armed with guns boarded a cargo vessel anchored at Chittagong, Bangladesh on 6 February. They threatened the duty watchman, who escaped and raised the alarm. The robbers escaped with stolen ship's stores.

All attacks and suspicious sightings should be reported to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre, tel: +603 2031 0014 (24 hours), email:



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