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Pirates Kill One Crew Member, 15 Kidnapped - Gulf of Guinea

January 25, 2021 - 17:02:37 UTC

Pirates Kill One Crew Member, 15 Kidnapped - Gulf of Guinea

UPDATED: TURKISH-owned, Liberia-flagged container ship, Mozart, whilst transiting from Lagos, Nigeria to Cape Town, South Africa, was boarded by armed pirates in the early morning of Saturday, 23 January northwest of São Tomé and Principe resulting in one Azerbaijani crew member being killed, 15 Turkish crew being kidnapped, and 3 crew remaining onboard to sail to a safe port. 

MV Mozart Crew Kidnapped in Gulf of Guinea. Map: OCEANUSLive

The ship owned by Turkish company Istanbul-based Boden Denizcilik AS was attacked and boarded around 98 nautical miles (nm) northwest of São Tomé & Principe by four armed pirates. The alarm was raised onboard and the crew sought safety in the citadel, which the pirates were able to breach. In taking over the ship, the pirates beat some of the crew members, killing the Azerbaijani Second Engineer, and kidnapping 15 Turkish crew members. The pirates went on to destroy onboard instrumentation, however, some navigation systems remained operable, before departing the vessel.

MV Mozart Crew - Photo: https://www.wanhaber.com/

Three crew members were able to escape although they sustained injuries from the attack. The ships’ Fourth Captain, Furkan Yaren, and those left were able to navigate the vessel, using only radar, to Port-Gentil in Gabon arriving 0800 UTC on 24 January.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a telephone conversation with Furkan Yaren, the fourth captain of the ship that was ambushed, the Presidential Communications Directorate said in a statement. Closely following the process, Erdogan instructed authorities regarding the rescue of the ship’s personnel.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavuvoglu also talked to Yaren and received information about the incident and the situation on the ship.

Cavuvoglu spoke to Osman Levent Karsan, the operator of the company that owns the ship and conveyed his condolences, emphasising that necessary actions will be taken to rescue the crew as soon as possible and return them safely.

Furkan Yaren recounts on a friend's Twitter feed, “I don't know where I'm going. The hackers dismantled all the cables, nothing works. We survived, they kidnapped our friends by beating them. Only the navigation system works. They gave me an itinerary, I move forward accordingly. Will try to bring the vessel to a safe place."

Turkey's foreign ministry said the pirates had not made any contact with Ankara.

The Gulf of Guinea has experienced an unprecedented rise in the number of multiple crew kidnappings in 2020 - crew kidnappings were reported in 25% of vessel attacks in the Gulf of Guinea – more than any other region in the world. The furthest crew kidnapping in 2020 occurred almost 200nm from land with the average kidnapping incident taking place over 60nm from land. This attack on MV Mozart, whilst at 98nm off land, suggests that the continued attacks are conducted by Nigeria-based pirates and that this is the furthest offshore attack from Nigeria. The rise in kidnapping incidents further away from shorelines demonstrates the increasing capabilities of pirates in the Gulf of Guinea.

“This is a worrying trend that can only be resolved through increased information exchange and coordination between vessels, reporting and response agencies in the Gulf of Guinea Region. Despite prompt action by navies in the region, there remains an urgent need to address this crime, which continues to have a direct impact on the safety and security of innocent seafarers,” said Michael Howlett, Director of the ICC International Maritime Bureau in the IMB annual report for 2020.

IMB advises vessels in the region to remain at least 250nm from the coast at all times, or until the vessel can transit to commence cargo operations at a berth or safe anchorage. However, as proven by the increase in offshore attacks, the difficulty of maintaining such a distance may be ineffective as a deterrent.

Vessels operating within this area are recommended to do so at a heightened posture maintaining the highest levels of vigilance whilst implementing full hardening / mitigation in accordance with BMP West Africa where possible.

The attack on the Mozart could further raise international pressure on Nigeria to do more to protect shipping and seafarers, which has seen calls for tougher action in recent weeks from shipping authorities and associations.

Update: The 15 crew members kidnapped by pirates were safely released following efforts by Turkish and Nigerian officials on 12 February 2021.

Source: OCEANUSLive Team