The Marshall Islands-flagged, V-Ship (India) managed tanker Duke was attacked on Sunday as she sailed from Luanda, Angola, to Lomé, Togo. Six pirates boarded the vessel about 115 nautical miles south-east of Lomé and kidnapped all but one on board – believed to be a Nigerian national. The remaining crew of 20 Indian seafarers were kidnapped.
According to analysts from Dryad Maritime, the specific methodology used are unclear, but given that the incident occurred a significant distance offshore, the pirates are likely to have used a mother-ship to aid operations.
The incident is the largest kidnapping event in West Africa this year, and it follows the kidnap of 19 Indian nationals from the Nave Constellation on December 4. The vessel was boarded and four personnel were kidnapped, three of which were recently released with the fourth dying from illness whilst captive.
It incident is the 10th maritime security incident and fourth kidnapping incident in the waters off Togo within 2019. However, Dryad Maritime notes that it is not the largest kidnapping in the region. In February 2018, 22 Indian seafarers were kidnapped from the Marine Express offshore from Benin.
Dryad Maritime says: “The waters of Togo and Benin have thus far experienced a very slight reduction in number of incidents when set against those of 2018. However, with five kidnaps within 2019 against zero in 2018, there has been a significant increase in serious maritime crime and there is a direct increase to the risk facing vessel and crews within this area.”
An increasing number of kidnap incidents are occurring beyond the Nigerian EEZ, and Dryad Maritime says this may reflect more effective policing within the zone. Pirates could now be considering that the costs of working further of shore require a larger payback – kidnapping rather than theft. “This realistically could explain the recent uptick in kidnappings within the last 18 months against a broader trend showing a reduction in incidents.”