Angolan navy launches manhunt for Nigerian pirates

The Angolan navy and air force have started hunting suspected pirates after an oil tanker went missing in its waters.

Nigerian pirates were suspected to have hijacked 75,000 dwt, Liberian-flagged oil tanker, MT Kerala offshore Luanda, Angola.

Operator of the vessel, Dynacom Tankers Management, said that it unexpectedly “lost communication” with the vessel stating that the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) had been notified.

The ship operator did not say specifically when communication was lost, however, sources indicate that this must have happened on 17 January while the Automatic Identification System (AIS) signal was lost on the 18th.

Navy Captain Augusto Alfredo confirmed to the British Broadcasting Corporation that an unknown vessel had been seen near the Greek-owned 75,000 tonne MT Kerala as it lay off Luanda’s port.

But he said he could not confirm it was a pirate attack, which would be the first in the country’s waters. Angola is one of the world’s biggest oil producers. The oil mostly comes from off-shore rigs in the Atlantic Ocean.

There has been a huge surge in pirate attacks off Nigeria in recent years but never one so far south. In contrast, piracy off the Somali coast has declined dramatically.

“We are concerned. Piracy is a phenomenon that concerns everyone as it poses a threat to any country,” Capt Alfredo told the BBC’s Focus on Africa radio programme.

“We will be taking measures to avoid a repetition. As you know, offshore oil production accounts for most of the Angolan domestic revenue,” he said.

Director of Intelligence at Dryad Maritime Intelligence Service, Ian Millen, said he did not seem particularly surprised by the possible incident and said that this could very well be related of a number of suspicious activities which have been observed in the area recently.

“We have been watching Nigerian based pirates launch an increasing number of attacks on vessels in areas not normally associated with piracy of late. If substantiated, this latest incident demonstrates a significant extension of the reach of criminal groups and represents a threat to shipping in areas that were thought to be safe.

“This would be the furthest south that Nigerian-based criminals had struck for the purposes of refined product cargo theft,” added Millen.



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