The French Navy has located the missing product tanker that was boarded by pirates last weekend, but several crew members were reportedly arrested as the pirates abandoned ship. 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 brought 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 passages were 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.
EOS Group safety advisers reported that at 19:37 on March 30, a distress call was received from the ship. They calculated its position about 90 nautical miles south of Bonny Island, Nigeria.
Update 4: MT MONJASA REFORMER is reported found. Incident closed, ship safe. pic.twitter.com/OJxcFL396B
– Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade Gulf of Guinea (@MDAT_GoG) March 30, 2023
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. Security services report they believe three crew members were kidnapped by the pirates as they disembarked from the ship, although Monjasa is cautious in his reports of crew safety concerns.
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 in 2022, with just 19 incidents in the Gulf of Guinea and 115 reports worldwide. 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.
Details of the current incident remain vague as no nationality of the pirates has been reported. French news agency AFP quotes a source as saying three people have taken control Monjasa Reforms. The company said only that piracy logs were in place and followed the crew, who took refuge in the ship’s citadel when the ship boarded just before midnight local time on March 25.
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.
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.
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