On Monday night, armed attackers came on board the product tanker Happy Lady at an anchorage about two nm off the Limboh Terminal in Cameroon. The pirates abducted one Ukrainian, two Philippine nationals and five Greek nationals out of the 28-member crew. One additional Greek seafarer was injured.
The attack brings the tally of kidnapped mariners in the Gulf of Guinea to 57 for the month of December alone, according to maritime security consultancy Dryad Global.
"The rapid increase in incidents is believed to be perpetuated in part by a confluence of factors including favorable conditions and reinforced successes. Lengthy turn around times at terminal locations present considerable security challenges for vessels seeking to reduce exposure to the risk of incident," Dryad wrote in an analysis. "In addition to this, a lack of coherent and coordinated security response means that pirates are able to operate between national maritime boundaries without restriction."
In cooperation with TankerTrackers, Dryad recently identified at least one merchant vessel that may be operating as a pirate mother ship in the Gulf of Guinea. Mother ships offer pirate action groups and their skiffs increased range to attack vessels far from shore. The strategy is familiar from the earlier piracy epidemic off the Horn of Africa, when Somali pirate gangs roamed as far as the western coast of India. Though the assessment is not confirmed, Dryad told Lloyds' List that it believes that the product tanker Determination 2 (IMO 8201014) is involved in pirate activity in the Gulf of Guinea region.
Kidnapping is a serious problem for vessel operators in the Gulf of Guinea, the world capital of maritime piracy. Historically, the attacks were concentrated off the coast of the Niger River Delta, an area home to militants with a history of oil theft and related crimes. Piracy still occurs in this littoral area, but this year, multiple hijackings and kidnappings have also occurred far from Nigerian shores. Attacks have been reported off Togo, Benin, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea; several have occurred far out to sea, near the margins of Nigeria's EEZ.