The Value News

Piracy: How The Loose Security In Nigerian Waters And The Gulf Of Guinea, Exposes Oceangoing Vessels To Pirates Attack And Kidnap Of Crew For Ransom

By Stephen Ubanna

 Btween September  last year and now, there is hardly a week that an ocean going vessel had not been attacked in the volatile  region of the  Gulf of Guinea, popular, GoG. Take for nstance,  on November 4, 2020,  a product Tanker vessel, NEFELI  II, IMO 9291638, dwt 9999, enroute from  Lagos port of Apapa to Douala port, Cameroon,  was attacked some 20mm south of Bonny, Nigeria, by  Pirates.The ship was said to have stopped  roughly at the same time  and position, the attack occurred.

The latest of such attacks was   the  Liberian flagged  Container vessel, MV. MOZART, IMO:9337274, managed by Boden Denizcilik AS, Istabul, Turkey, which was said to have been  successfully boarded by four well- armed  Pirates, on Saturday, January, 23, 2021, barely two days after Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman, was reappointed by President Muhammadu Buhari  as the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA.

The Crew members , were said to have  retreated to the citadel which was alleged to have been breached by the pirates which had attacked the vessel. This may have given the  Pirates  the  opportunity to kidnap 15, out of the 19  of  the Crew members  on Board the vessel.

 There are reports making the rounds   that one Farman Ismayilov, an Azerbaijani Engineer, was killed while the remaining  three  other Crew members were said to be maneuvering  the vessel  and proceeding  to Port Gentil in Gabon at gunpoint.

The attacked MOZART Container vessel, which  has capacity  2824 TEU, built in 2007, has  an international Crew of 19 Seafarers which  was a Commercial voyage  from Lagos port of Apapa, to Cape Town in South Africa. The pirates were said to have dismantled  all cables  in the vessel , leaving only  ‘’the Navigators to work. The Captain of the vessel in a shared Twitter that had been made public   had revealed that,  the Pirates  gave him  a route  which he had followed it  accordingly.  ‘’Idon’t know where I am going’’, he had cried out.

 Signs that the Turkish  Container vessel may have ran into murkey waters in the Gulf of Guinea  emerged  when ‘’the ship stopped shortly after boarding , went adrift , and was still at drift  as at the time  the last  AIS, position of the vessel was received on Saturday, January 23, 2021’’.

  Aware of the attack on its Container vessel whilst sailing  in the Gulf of Guinea  some 100 nautical miles  off  the coast of Sao Tome and Principe,  the Management of Boden Denizcilik, AS Turkey, the managers of the vessel, were said to have established  contact   with the Crew of the vessel  who had taken shelter at the citadel of the ship.

Jamoh: DG, NIMASA

 Based on the contact with the  ship Crew members, they were said to have reached out to  the Nigerian Navy, and  Bashir Jamoh, Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, who in turn was said to have  given  a marching order to agency Search and Rescue Team, other relevant government agencies to join the agency  in search and sescue operations for the MOZART vessel and the Crew.

 The Turky based shipping Company  may have  reached out to the relevant Authorities in Nigeria to seek assistance as it had  said in a Statement  that ‘’the safety of  and well-being  of the seafarers on board on the Container vessel   is a prime concern to the Company’’.

Security sources told The Value News  Magazine that the Pirates appear to be finding it ease in attacking ocean going vessels   the  in the Gulf of Guinea    because Naval forces  , particularly, those outside of Nigeria,  are poorly  financed  by their respective home governments   and thus, unable  to support the country’s Naval personnel to  adequately police  the  GoG, with vessels underway . This may have informed why the threat of Piracy  in the region has been elevated to’’ the level of criminality’’.

There is no gainsaying the fact that  the primary motivation of the pirates   remains financial  with the kidnappers  demanding a ransom  for the release  of the captured Crew. It was reported that the Nigerian pirates, who are working in Collaboration with foreigners  are awaiting for Negotiations  for ransom from the MOZART vessel Managers.

President Erdogen Of Turkey Instruct Releevant Authorities To Ensure The Rescue Of MOZART Container Vseel Crew

Meanwhile ,  the Turkish Authorities, were said to have launched  efforts  to find the kidnapped Crew members of MOZART Container vessel. Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkey   President was  said to have held a telephone  Conversation  with Furkan Yren,  the fourth  captain of the ship that was ambushed . That much was  contained  in a Statement  by the country’s Presidential Communications  Directorate. He was said to have   instructed   the Authorities   to ensure the rescue  of the MOZART Container vessel personnel.

Concerned about the safety of the 15 kidnapped Crew members of the MOZART  Container vessel,  Mevlut Cavuvoglu,  the Turkish minister of Foreign Affairs  was said to have  also  spoken to Osman Levent  Karsan , the operator of Boden Denizcilik, AS  Turkey              , that owns the ship , emphaising  that ‘’necessary actions  will be taken ‘’to rescue  the Crew as soon as possible  and return them to the country safely’’ .

 It was gathered   that  the Turkish Embassies  in surrounding  countries, including  Nigeria,  have been mobilised  for the rescue of the  Crew.  But the Turkey based shipping Company has  called  for a ‘’sensitive approach  to the rescue operations  for the sake of the Crew members’’  stressing that  they are doing dong everything within their capacity ‘’ to solve the problem as soon as possible in the safest way’’.   

A  Recall that  a similar incident  had occurred  in 2019 when a Turkish  cargo vessel  was attacked  by Pirates, alleged to be Nigerian pirates  and 10 seafarers , all Turkish nationals  were SAID to have been  taken hostage for ransom before they were released.

Many had attributed the  regularity of Pirates attack on  oceangoing vessels in the recent time in the Gulf of Guinea to  the cancellation of   the controversial   Secure Anchorage Area, SAA, operated  by  Ocean  Marine Solutions Limited, OMSL  which had won the contract from the Nigerian Navy, at the instance of Hajia Usman, Managing Director, NPA, who has the backing of Rotimi Amaechi, minister of Transportation by the Katsina state born Nigerian President.

 This may have forced the Ibok –Ete Ekwe Ibas, a Vice Admiral, led  Nigerian Navy, Jamoh, Director General, NIMASA, and his Management Team  to go back’’ to the drawing board  to put the situation under control by restoring sanity in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea’’.  

The agency which had taken delivery  of the $195 million  operational security equipment   from  the Isareli firm, HLSI security Systems  and Technologies Limited  that would enhance   the security of  the nation’s maritime domain  which includes the   anchorage area , where  all vessels  calling  at the Lagos and south east ports berth  may have stepped up their Operation in Collaboration with the Navy  to contain the annual loss of $2.3  billion to sea thieves in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea.

 The NIMASA, boss who had given  an insight to the equipment that that that had been delivered to the agency had said that  it had received  two Unmanned  Aerial Vehicles,  UAV, and two special mission  vessels.This is in addition to the   17 fast  interceptor  boats and,  15 armoured  vehicles.

 Recall that the Nigerian Air Force,  and the Maritime Regulatory agency had signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, in 2013,   on maritime air Surveillance and Intelligence,  in order to work closely in maritime security.

Given that maritime  security and safety, top the agenda of the  Jamoh led new  NIMASA led Management,  he has made it clear  to those  that cares to listen that the agency under his Leadership is  ‘’committed  to ensuring  the success of  the Deep Blue Project   with adequate Cooperation from all stakeholders’’.

Security experts believe that the full deployment of the maritime security equipment which are scattered in Benin, Lagos and Onne, Rivers state , in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea as would force  many of the unrepentant Pirates and other sea  criminals in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea, who would  no longer find easy to carry out their attack on Merchant vessels  for fear of being racked to go underground. It is not surprising  why they  have  advised those still engaging in the Criminals  to turn a  new leaf or be ready to face the Consequences in no distant time. They  had stopped short of saying that  their days are numbered  in Nigerian waters and the GoG.           

Stephen Ubanna

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