France says pirates have kidnapped six crew members who left the tanker Monjasa

Tank crew taken hostage
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French Navy forces located and secured the missing tanker (Marine Nationale photos)

Published March 31, 2023 14:55 by

The Maritime Executive

The French Navy located the missing product tanker, which was boarded by pirates last weekend, but according to reports from the French patrol boat First Master L’Her supporting the tanker, six crew members were kidnapped by the pirates. Security officials continue to warn of an increasing threat in the Gulf of Guinea and further afield off the west coast of Africa as efforts to resolve the situation continue.

“The Monjasa Reforms was located by the French Navy off Sao Tomé & Principe in the Gulf of Guinea. At that point, the pirates had left the ship and taken some of the crew members with them,” Danish oil trader Monjasa reported in its latest update. The company thanked the French Navy and other authorities who helped locate the ship and said its thoughts are with the missing crew and their families. “Monjasa will continue to work closely with local authorities to support the safe return of our seafarers to their families.”

The French and British joint effort in the region, Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade Gulf of Guinea (MDAT-GoG), issued a brief update officially listing the incident as “closed” after the vessel was located and secured.

A French naval ship arrived to support the Monjasa reformer (Marine Nationale photo)

The French Navy provided additional details, reporting that their patrol boat initially proceeded to the tanker’s last known position. On Thursday afternoon, March 30, they were able to spot the ship with an aerial drone. At the time, a skiff was next to the tanker they believed was bound for Nigeria. Early in the evening as they approached the tanker, a new reconnaissance flight showed the boat was no longer alongside and the French reported they had a distress call from the Monjasa Reforms broadcast on FM 16.

The patrol boat reached the tanker and sent a team including a doctor and a nurse across. The crew informed the French that the pirates had left with six of their colleagues. The medical team reports that they treated three of the crew members for minor injuries. They did not provide details of the vessel’s position, but EOS Group safety advisers calculated its position to be about 90 nautical miles south of Bonny Island, Nigeria.

The ship had a crew of 16, with Danish Shipping reporting earlier in the week that none of the crew members were Danish but their nationalities are unknown. Monjasa is cautious in his reports of crew safety concerns.

A Nigerian patrol boat NNS Gongola met with ships this morning and with Monjasa’s approval, the tanker was escorted to the port of Lome. Monjasa says the crew who stayed on board are in good health and have been taken to a safe environment. The company also said no damage to the ship or cargo had been reported.

Authorities across the region had been searching for the ship for the past five days, with a report putting it west-northwest of its original position 140 nautical miles west of Port Pointe-Noire, Congo. The ship eventually traveled hundreds of miles north before being abandoned.

Danish Shipping and previously the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) both stressed the importance of staying alert, as the recent hijacking incident demonstrated. The IMF highlighted in its 2022 annual report that piracy had fallen to a modern low with just 19 incidents in the Gulf of Guinea and 115 reports worldwide in 2022. While 107 ships boarded last year, the IMB recorded only two hijackings and two hijackings. but 41 crew members were eventually held hostage.

Security analysts point out that the current attack took place farther south than historical activity in the Gulf of Guinea, although there have been other incidents in the pre-Congo region. With efforts to combat piracy from Nigeria and surrounding areas, officials had previously warned that pirates were working further out to sea and across a wider area.


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