Thursday, October 24, 2013

Two Held Hostage as Pirate Activity Moves from Container and Merchant Shipping

Different Political Motivations Apply to Attacks on East African Oilfields
Shipping News Feature

NIGERIA – GULF OF GUINEA – INDIA – The latest pirate attack off the Gulf of Guinea saw two US citizens taken prisoner by raiders from an offshore supply vessel, the 70 metre long C-Retriever, owned by Edison Chouest Offshore of Louisiana. This is the latest attack in the region and, as we have mentioned before, the circumstances of these attacks are very different to those carried out on the African East Coast, aimed as they area at oil recovery sites rather than container and general merchant shipping.

The vessel and eleven of her crew subjected to the latest attack were released, apparently without harm, whilst the Captain and Chief Engineer were kidnapped, and no news of the reason behind the attack has yet been released by either side. Traditionally attacks in this area tend to be on vessels from which fuel can be easily stolen and many have a political motivation. The regions eco-structure has been ruined in many places by the oil recovery industry, and accusations are rife that local politicians have sold of the energy recovery rights cheaply and pocketed the money, with no consideration for the people who live in the Niger Delta and surrounds.

Fights between the Nigerian forces and militants in the region such as MEND are commonplace and security companies have been quick to see the Gulf as a potential target for growth and spoken out on the latest attack with one eye on potential sales. Nick Davis, CEO of British company GoAGT Ltd. (Gulf of Aden Group Transits Ltd.), commented:

“The Edison Chouest-owned supply vessel was navigating a short distance off Brass, in Nigeria, on Wednesday 23rd when it was attacked. This is a recognised high risk area. It is imperative that vessels have incredibly competent crews, well trained in radar and visual lookout, 24 hours a day in this region and that they are not multi-tasking, untrained or fatigued seafarers on the bridge. All vessels trading or supporting operations in this area should have a citadel and a highly trained reactive crew. This attack resulted in the Captain and Chief Engineer being kidnapped. It was completely and utterly avoidable, and a sad end to a day.”

William H. Watson, President of US group AdvanFort International, which claims to be the world’s largest private maritime security company (PMSC), also expressed sympathy for those affected by the latest raid, saying:

“We want to let the world know that, as a PMSC that has been at the forefront in the battle to stop piracy, we have been very active in the Gulf of Guinea as well as many other places around the world making the case for the legitimacy and need for using PMSC's to protect shipping. We also want to express our hope that international concern helps to focus even greater efforts to get the master and the chief engineer of the C-Retriever liberated quickly and safely.”

AdvanFort still has its own troubles as regards captured crew, this time though by the Indian authorities. Controversy still rages over the fate of the MV Seaman Guard Ohio in a case we have previously reported. Despite the release of a document by AdvanFort allegedly demonstrating that the ship was invited into Indian territorial waters to avoid the approaching cyclone, and the fact that the company remains adamant that she was intercepted whilst still nineteen miles offshore, the vessel’s crew still languish in an Indian jail whilst the authorities ponder prosecution on weapons charges.

Photo: The C-Escort a sister ship to the latest victim.