Tanker hijacked off Ghana coast

Media reports that MT Hai Soon 6 hijacked by pirates in Ghanaian waters.

Tanker hijacked off Ghana coast

According to media reports, the Kiribati-flagged tanker, MT Hai Soon 6 (IMO 9062697, owned by HaiSoon Pacific Pte Ltd. and operated by Hai Soon Ship Management Pte Ltd., was boarded and hijacked by a group of 10 heavily-armed pirates at 2340 UTC on Friday July 26th, around 46nm South of Ghana.

The tanker, laden with Marine Gas Oil (MGO), was reportedly engaged in STS operations when it was attacked and boarded. The ship was then reportedly sailed in a South Easterly direction, through Togo and possibly heading towards Cotonou, Benin. Patrol vessels from the Benin and Nigerian navies are currently searching for the ship.

If the hijacking follows previous patterns, it is likely she will be held for several days while the pirates siphon the cargo into other, smaller tankers before releasing the ship.

Glen Forbes, of OCEANUSLive.org, acknowledged the difficulties faced in the region, “Ghana and Nigeria have made huge investments into enhancing maritime surveillance in their respective waters, yet as piracy continually shifts across the sovereign and EEZ waters of states from Angola all the way up to Sierra Leone, combating the threat of attacks on commercial shipping is subject to a fragmented approach. All stakeholders recognise the need for information sharing, however, this must not only be timely and accurate, but must cross the boundaries inherent in territorial waters (TTW).

“In the latest incident of the hijack of Hai Soon 6, the vessel was in the midst of bunkering operations with another vessel when it was boarded by heavily armed pirates. That the pirates were able to take control of the vessel during such an operation would indicate that they were well aware of the vulnerabilities of shipping in the region. The vessel involved in the bunkering operation with Hai Soon 6 was the vessel which reported the hijack by informing the IFC. At this point, MTISC, the newly established centre for managing the Voluntary Reporting Area (in much the same way as UKMTO has done in the HoA/IOR), contacted local ops centres in regional states. Hai Soon 6 was not reporting movements to MTISC GoG.

“Benin and Nigerian Navy patrol boats commenced searching for the missing vessel but, so far, no sighting has been reported. The vessel was believed to be heading towards Benin waters, as yet unconfirmed.

“Considering the most recent hijacks in the area, the probable modus operandi holds true with past extended duration robbery of cargo whilst leaving the crew largely unharmed. It is likely that the now common practice of destroying communications and navigation equipment has taken place, denying authorities the ability to track or communicate with the vessel.

“It would be expected that regional surveillance would look out for further STS operations farther away from the coastline stretching as far as towards Nigerian waters (MT Kerala’s various STS ops in Nigerian waters after sailing from Angola provides precedence). The last hijack in Ghana/Togo waters was the Fair Artemis in June when part of the fuel cargo was stolen before regional naval forces were able to locate the vessel.

“Whilst OCEANUSLive is aware of ongoing search operations, they are rightly unlikely to be made known until the incident is resolved. However, regional and international authority engagement remains the foundation to combating the threat of piracy, or extended duration robbery as it were. Although fewer incidents have been reported of late, it is the under-reporting of incidents that is a concern, but in line with current regulation/legislation, determining the difference between piracy, armed robbery at sea or extended duration robbery remains contentious. They are not all considered to be ‘sea pirates’.”

 

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