On Tuesday, pirates boarded the Navios oil tanker Nave Constellation at a position about 75 nm south of Bonny, Nigeria and abducted 19 out of 26 crew members on board. It is the latest – and among the most severe – in a string of kidnapping incidents in the region this year.
In a statement, Navios said that the abductees include 18 Indian nationals and one Turkish citizen. The remaining seven seafarers on board navigated the vessel to safety. No pollution or vessel damage was reported.
According to maritime security consultancy Dryad Global, the attack occurred in a particularly dangerous hotspot for maritime piracy – the waters south of the Niger River Delta near the southeastern boundary of the Nigerian exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The position of the hijacking is about 25 nm away from the FPSO for Total’s Egina offshore oil field.
“This is further confirmation of a developing trend of incidents that are assessed to be perpetuated by a well resourced pirate action group, most likely operating from one or more mother-ship vessels,” said Dryad in a threat assessment Wednesday. “It is assessed that this PAG is aware of the limitations of security prescience beyond the Nigerian EEZ and is seeking to exploit traffic conducting operations at or in support of oil infrastructure located along the northeastern fringes of the Nigerian EEZ and within the 60nm channel between the Nigerian EEZ and Bioko Island . . . Within this, vessels conducting operations at the Egina, Usan and Serpentina terminals are assessed to be operating at heightened risk in the medium to longer term.”
Kidnapping is an all-to-frequent problem for maritime operators in the Gulf of Guinea, the world capital of maritime piracy. Historically, the epicenter of the problem was located off the coast of the Niger River Delta, an area home to well-armed militants with a long history of oil theft and related crimes, and attacks still occur with frequency in this region. This year, multiple hijackings and kidnappings have also occurred to the west, off Togo and Benin, and to the southeast, off Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea.