Pirates attack tanker off Benin, kidnap crew

On Feb. 20th, MDAT-GoG, the agency monitoring maritime crime in West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea, reported an attack on a vessel in position 05°08’31’’N – 002°06’14.4’’E.

Although the agency has not updated their report since then, media outlets and independent sources now say that at least nine crew (possibly 10, there is some confusion about the actual number) were taken hostage after at least two armed pirates boarded the ship, named as the MT Alpine Penelope.

The incident reportedly occurred some 76nm off Cotonou and the location suggests that pirate groups in the region are moving away from areas where naval patrols have been stepped up in recent weeks, such as off the Niger Delta.

Yesterday’s attack is another example of the changing economies of piracy. Until 2018, pirate groups in the region took advantage of the oil market by hijacking tankers and stealing crude for re-sale either domestically or elsewhere in the Gulf of Guinea. However, as oil prices fell, criminal gangs in West Africa reaslised that stolen crude and related products no longer offered a good return on investment and turned to kidnap instead. Media reports suggest a number of the kidnapped crew are Georgian nationals.

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