No fewer than 20 Indian nationals who were crew members of a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker have been kidnapped off Lome, Togo, according to Dryad Global.
The abductors, however, spared a crew member, who happens to be a Nigerian, on the vessel.
The incident, described as the largest kidnapping event in West Africa in 2019, occurred some 115 nautical miles southeast of Lome on Sunday.
The tanker, identified as the 19,100 dwt MT Duke, was attacked and boarded by six pirates while sailing from Luanda, Angola, to Lome with a cargo of fuel oil.
The 2003-built chemical/product tanker is owned by UK’s Union Maritime, which has also confirmed the attack:
“Duke’s crew is managed by V Ships, and Union Maritime is working closely with them and all relevant authorities to resolve the situation as quickly as possible. The safety and welfare of the crew remains the top priority of Union Maritime,” Union Maritime said.
The latest incident comes less than two weeks after nineteen crew members were kidnapped from the tanker Nave Constellation off Bonny Island, Nigeria.
“With the latest kidnap of 20 Indian crew off Lomé, this brings the total number of kidnapped Indian personnel within West Africa to 89 since Jan 18, thus making Indian nationals the highest volume of kidnapped personnel operating in West Africa.
“This is however not the largest incident involving the kidnap of Indian personnel, with one larger event originating offshore Benin on Feb 1, 18 involving the kidnap of 22 Indian personnel from the MV Marine Express,” Dryad said.
The maritime security company further said that the newest incident is the 10th maritime security incident and the 4th kidnapping incident in the waters off Togo this year.
“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 5 kidnaps within 2019 against 0 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,” Dryad said.
The maritime security company said pirates are likely to be using a mothership vessel to aid their criminal activities deep offshore.