Armed pirates last weekend shot dead Nigerian Navy armed guard escorting an offshore support vessel and kidnapped five crew members from the vessel in the latest pirate attack off Brass, Bayelsa state.
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre said on Wednesday that the pirates, armed with machine guns in two speedboats, approached the unnamed vessel while it was underway some 32 nautical miles off the coast of Brass, midday on March 9.
The ship’s Captain was said to have “immediately notified the naval escort security boat which maneuvered to engage the attackers”.
According to the IMB, one of the speedboats closed in from the port side of the vessel and crossed the bow, while the other exchanged fire with the security boat.
“Alarm was raised and the crew went to the engine room, while all power was shut down. The pirates boarded the vessel with the aid of an elongated ladder and broke into the accommodation, vandalized the cabins and took crew belongings and vessel’s properties,” IMB Piracy Reporting Centre said in a note it issued on Wednesday.
It said the attackers thereafter proceeded to the engine room of the vessel, kidnapped five men and escaped, while the remaining crew members sailed the vessel under escort to a safe anchorage.
IMB Piracy Reporting Centre added that one Nigerian Navy armed guard was reported killed in the exchange of fire between the naval security boat and the pirates.
This is the third reported attack on ships off Brass this year. On January 24 and 25, some armed men attempted to attack two ships in two separate incidents.
A product tanker was fired upon while underway, around 35 nautical miles south of Brass on January 24, 2019 while the following day, up to seven armed pirates in a skiff chased and fired upon a bulk carrier.
Both attacks were repelled by the crew who raised the alarm and took other security measures.
The Gulf of Guinea saw a significant new spike in violence in the last quarter of 2018 with Niger Delta pirates identified as being responsible for most of the attacks.
Vessels have been boarded by pirates well outside territorial waters, with crew kidnapped and taken into Nigeria where they are held for ransom.
In the last quarter of 2018, a total of 41 kidnappings were recorded in the Niger Delta region alone.