Union Maritime has confirmed that a 2005 built oil products tanker Barrett has been attacked by pirates.
The UK-based company lost communication with the vessel on Tuesday evening while it was at anchor off Benin, West Africa.
AIS data for the vessel has also been offline since last Tuesday.
Barrett had been due to enter Benin’s port of Cotonou when it was attacked.
The company alerted the local authorities on Wednesday. They say their primary concern is for the 22 crew members on board:
“Whilst we are tirelessly working to locate the vessel, our primary concern is for the 22 crew on board and ensuring their safety. Union Maritime regularly operates from ports in this region and has a rigorous safety and security protocol. Crews are repeatedly drilled in all safety and emergency procedures,” Union Maritime said.
Experts believe the tanker has been hijacked in order for its cargo to be stolen. The MT Barrett is a 11,999-dwt tanker built 2005 and registered in the Marshall Islands.
PIRACY IN THE REGION
This incident comes in a time where piracy, especially in West Africa, has increased. According to a report published by NGO Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) piracy is spreading, as except from HRA, piracy attacks were reported in West Africa as well, with the majority of them occurring in Nigeria. This is confirmed by a recent IMB report, which says that a total of 20 reports against all vessel types were received for Nigeria, in 2017, 16 of which occurred off the coast of Brass, Bonny and Bayelsa.
- Guns were reportedly used in 18 of the incidents
- 39 of the 49 crew members kidnapped globally occurred off Nigerian waters in seven separate incidents.
- Other crew kidnappings in 2017 have been reported 60 nautical miles off the coast of Nigeria.
ARX Maritime have developed non-lethal technology to safeguard ships from attacks like this.
Union Maritime have confirmed they are continuing to work with all relevant parties and are exploring all possible options.