The 15 crewmembers who were kidnapped from the boxship Mozart last weekend are unharmed, Turkish vessel operator Boden Shipping said in a statement Thursday.
“Boden Shipping communicated with the crew members of the container ship Mozart, which was hijacked off Sao Tome on Jan. 23, 2021,” the company said in a statement provided to Turkish state news agency Anadolu. “Boden Shipping and Boden Shipping’s partners in Borealis Shipping continue to make every effort to ensure the fastest release of their teammates, who are their first and only priorities, and continue to be in constant communication with the families of the abducted sailors.”
One crewmember was killed in the attack, and three others navigated the vessel to a safe anchorage in Port-Gentil, Gabon. They are in good coondition, according to the local Turkish embassy.
The attack on the Mozart occurred while she was under way on a routine voyage from Lagos, Nigeria to Cape Town, South Africa through the Gulf of Guinea. It appears to have been an unusually well-coordinated effort, according to multiple sources. The pirates had six hours on board the target vessel, and they managed to breach its citadel – the secure compartment where crewmembers retreat in the event of a boarding. They also destroyed bridge equipment before departing, leaving the survivors in a challenging position for navigating back to a port of refuge.
“This severity of this latest attack must now drive robust action from government to protect seafarers and the movement of trade around West Africa. Governments need to make good on their commitments to deter pirates with a strong naval and coastguard presence,” said ITF Seafarers’ Section Coordinator Fabrizio Barcellona in a statement Thursday. “Without immediate action, more seafarers risk being shot and killed. The Gulf of Guinea is becoming a ‘bay of blood.'”
Piracy is a routine threat in the Gulf of Guinea, and the region has become the world’s epicenter for maritime kidnapping. Over the past several years, experienced criminals and insurgents from the Niger River Delta have transitioned away from fuel theft in favor of seafarer abduction, ranging hundreds of miles from Nigerian shores to attack vessels off the coasts of neighboring countries.
A patchwork of national regulation interferes with the use of embarked private maritime security contractors (PMSCs), and many vessels sail through the region undefended. In particular, the Nigerian Navy has repeatedly used Nigerian antipiracy laws to target suspected private security guards.