In what has been described as “a sophisticated attack” pirates operating in the Gulf of Guinea assaulted a container ship on Saturday January 23. The attack saw the death of one crewman and the kidnapping of fifteen others.
According to Turkish media the man killed has been identified as Farman Ismayilov from Azerbaijan, the only non-Turkish national aboard. The fifteen kidnapped crew are all Turkish nationals. Three crewmen were either able to evade capture or were left aboard and are currently sailing the vessel towards Gabon.
Footage of the incident from what appears to be the ship’s security cameras shows that the pirates were armed with Kalashnikov automatic rifles and beat at least one member of the crew.
The office of the Turkish President confirmed that they had spoken to the remaining crew and were orchestrating efforts to obtain more information in order to expedite the release of the captured sailors.
The Gulf of Guinea was recently designated the most active area for piracy in the world, and this latest attack has several elements that are unusual and mark a disturbing increase in the capability and determination on the part of the pirates.
The attacked ship, the Mozart, is owned by Turkish shipping line Boden Denizcilik A.S. and was reportedly sailing between Lagos and Cape Town far off the coast at the time.
Borealis Maritime the company responsible for the management of the Mozart issued a statement offering their condolences:
“Borealis Maritime are offering their full support to the vessel’s technical managers Boden Denizcilik who together with authorities and professional advisors are currently working to establish contact with the missing crew and the kidnappers in order to secure their earliest and safe release.
Borealis Maritime are deeply shocked by the brutal attack on the seafarers of Mozart who have been exposed to this unparalleled violence and call for the immediate release of the 15 crew members.”
Generally, attacks in this area have been undertaken closer to the shore. Additionally, the attackers are reported to have been able to breach the armored citadel in which the crew was hiding with explosives, indicating that the pirates came well prepared and intending to seize hostages.
Out of 135 sailors abducted globally last year, 130 were recorded in the Gulf of Guinea. This was the highest ever number of crew members kidnapped in the area.
With ransoms proving a lucrative industry previously for the infamous Somali pirates, these sorts of attacks off the coast of West Africa are liable to increase until proper international coordination in applied to improving the maritime security situation for traffic transiting the area.