Pirates kidnap 13 seafarers off Togo, Cotonou 

3 piracy incidents reported within 20 days in Singapore Strait


No fewer than 13 seafarers have been kidnapped by pirates off the coast of Cotonou, Benin Republic and off the coast of Lome, Togo.

Nine of the seafarers were kidnapped off Cotonou on a Norwegian-flagged ship named MV Bonita on Saturday, while four were kidnapped on Monday aboard a Greek oil tanker named Elka Aristotle off Lome. 

The Norwegian ship owner, J.J. Ugland, said the vessel was boarded by armed pirates while at anchor before the kidnap, while the remaining crew notified local authorities, and the vessel docked at the port city of Cotonou later on Saturday.

The ship was carrying a cargo of gypsum, a mineral commonly used as fertilizer.

Citing safety reasons, the Norwegian shipowner did not reveal the crew’s nationalities or how many had avoided capture.

“The Ugland Emergency Response Team are handling this situation as per contingency plans, and they are in contact with relevant authorities. The families of the crew members have been contacted and will be kept informed by Ugland,” the company said in its terse statement released on Sunday. 

With regards to the abduction on the Greek tanker, authorities said two of the four kidnapped crew members are Filipinos, one is Greek and one is Georgian.

One security guard was also reportedly shot and wounded in the attack. 

“Monday, 4th of November 2019, around 0300, the tanker boat Elka Aristotle was attacked around 18 kilometers (11 miles) from the port of Lome by armed individuals,” Greek authorities said in a statement on Monday. 

The vessel’s manager, European Product Carriers Ltd, confirmed the early morning attack, without providing further details. 

Greece’s shipping ministry said it was “closely monitoring the issue.”

Armed guards were present on the Greek boat and tried to fight off the attackers, but one was wounded, the Togo navy said. An investigation has been opened.

While piracy has decreased worldwide, West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea is a high-risk area for abductions and armed robbery, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB). 

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