Offshore vessel operator Swire Pacific Offshore has announced that seven crew members aboard its Pacific Warden anchor handler were kidnapped by pirates offshore Equatorial Guinea last week.
“Swire Pacific Offshore (SPO) confirms that the Pacific Warden, an Anchor Handling Tug Supply Vessel (AHTS), was attacked offshore Equatorial Guinea on 20 November 2019 at approximately 05:00 local time. The vessel was supporting offshore field operations in Equatorial Guinea,” Swire said in a statement.
According to Swire, there were 15 crew members on board at the time of the pirate attack.
“Eight [crew members of the Pacific Warden] are safely ashore and unharmed. Seven crew members were taken by the attackers and are missing. The local authorities and the Navy of Equatorial Guinea responded quickly to the incident,” the statement said.
“The safety of the people on board our vessel is always our top priority. SPO will do everything possible to secure the safe and timely return of the missing crew members, in coordination with their families and relevant authorities. SPO has no further details at present and asks that the media respect the privacy of the affected crew members’ families at this difficult time,” the company said in a statement.
Commenting on the incident, Dryad, a maritime intelligence company, said that – based on reports – the Pacific Warden was attacked by two speed boats when transiting from Luba, Boiko island to Serpentina /Zafiro field complex.
Dryad said: “This is the third kidnapping incident within 30nm of the western side of Bioko Island within 2019 with two additional incidents involving vessels being fired upon at a distance of 50nm. It is assessed that the piracy conducted in this area originates from within Nigerian waters. The PAG [Pirate Action Group] involved is believed to be a well-established grouping with significant resources and the capacity to conduct deep offshore operations via a mothership vessel.
“It is assessed that the PAG involved is seeking to conduct operations beyond the Nigerian EEZ seeking to exploit the relative absence of established security presence in the 60nm channel between the Nigerian EEZ and Bioko. All incidents within 2019 in this area have involved offshore support vessels with particularly vulnerable vessel parameters,” Dryad said last week.