European Navigation of Greece has confirmed 2003-built LR2 tanker Elka Aristotle was attacked by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea some 15 km off the West African port of Lomé, Togo
The Togo navy reports four of the 24 crew members of Elka Aristotle have been taken hostage by pirates: two crew members are from the Philippines, one is Greek and one is from Georgia.
In a press release European Navigation stated “We cannot comment in detail at the present time, except to say the safety and security of our people is of paramount importance to us and we are doing everything we can to ensure their prompt and safe release. The vessel and remaining crew are safe.”
European Navigation was founded by Captain Spyros Karnessis. Elka Aristotle is managed by the company’s product tanker management arm, European Product Carriers.
The tanker is the second vessel to be attacked in the area in the last seven days. The 2010-built 58,000 dwt dry bulk carrier Bonita was attacked off Benin and nine crew members were abducted on 2 November. The operator, Norwegian family-owned JJ Ugland issued a statement “(The 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.”
In October the Nigerian Navy arrested seven people posing as armed guards who were on the way to ’escort’ a tanker from one of the terminals.
The International Chamber of Commerce International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported in October that the Gulf of Guinea remains a high risk area for piracy and armed robbery. The region accounts for 86% of crew taken hostage and nearly 82% of crew kidnappings globally.
In July 2019, a general cargo vessel was hijacked approximately 120 nautical miles from Brass. Ten crew members were kidnapped from the vessel and released four weeks later. In August 2019, a bulk carrier and a general cargo vessel were boarded within hours of each other at Douala anchorage, Cameroon and 17 crew were kidnapped from the vessels. Within six weeks all kidnapped crew were released. This incident demonstrates the range of piracy activity in the Gulf of Guinea and that all types of ships are vulnerable to attack. Lagos recorded 11 incidents in 2019, the highest number for any port.
“Although incidents are down, the Gulf of Guinea continues to be a concern for piracy and armed robbery-related activities with kidnappings of crew members increasing in both scale and frequency,” said ICC IMB’s director Pottengal Mukundan, “It is important that ship masters and owners continue to report all actual, attempted, and suspected incidents to ensure an accurate picture of these attacks emerge and action is taken against these criminals before the incidents further escalate.”