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UK tanker confirmed taken by pirates off West Africa - Updated

17 January 2018

UK-based tanker owner and operator Union Maritime confirmed on January 17 one of its vessels, MT Barrett, had been the subject of a pirate attack. The vessel was last reported to be at anchor off Benin, West Africa, on January 9. The company said it had alerted the local authorities and was now exploring all possible options to ensure the safety and recovery of the 22 crew members.

MT Barratt - Image: Union Maritime
MT Barratt - Image: Union Maritime

Seafarers in the region are frequently targeted by local pirate groups, despite efforts by local navies, led by the Nigerian Navy, to curb attacks. Tankers are often hijacked in order for their cargo to be stolen.

Union Maritime said it regularly operates from ports in this region and has a rigorous safety and security protocol, with crews repeatedly drilled in all safety and emergency procedures.

The Barrett is a 12,000 dwt tanker built in 2005 and registered in the Marshall Islands.

A recent International Maritime Bureau report said that a total of 20 piracy 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 and vessels were underway in 17 of 20 reports. 39 of the 49 crewmembers 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.

Update: On January 18, Union Maritime confirmed the MT Barratt and its crew were safe. In a statement, the company said:

"Union Maritime can confirm that the MT Barrett has been released after a Gulf of Guinea piracy incident lasting six days. All crew are safe. We are extremely grateful to the many parties that assisted in achieving the successful resolution of this incident.

"We are focused now on supporting the crew and their families. The crew are safely back in Lagos, Nigeria and were met by senior representatives from Union Maritime and the technical managers.

"The MT Barrett was at anchor off Benin, West Africa when communications were lost on the morning of Wednesday 10th January. Union Maritime’s emergency response plan was immediately activated and regional maritime authorities and other vessels in the area were alerted.

"The exact nature of the incident only became clear late on 12th January when those holding the vessel made contact with the company. A resolution process began, which ultimately led to the release of the vessel and all crew on board on 16th January.

"We sincerely appreciate the support and efforts of all involved, including the authorities in Benin, Togo, Nigeria and India."

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