The Ghana Navy and Air Force have started a search operation for the arrest of eight pirates, who have kidnapped five expatriate crew members of a Ghanaian Tuna-Fishing Vessel, Atlantic Princess.
The pirates, suspected to be Nigerians, abducted the Captain, a Korean, three Chinese – the Chief Officer, Second Chief officer, and Chief Engineer – and a Russian Boatswain’s mate.
The pirates are also said to have rummaged the vessel and took away personal belongings, including laptops, phones, money and other valuables.
According to an Ecowas MMCC Zone F Incident Report, made available to the Ghana News Agency, in Tema, there were no injuries to the remaining crew, and the vessel was sailing back towards Tema Port.
The report stated: “Information received indicates that at about 191830 UTC, the Ghanaian registered Tuna-fishing vessel ATLANTIC PRINCESS (IMO: 8124412) was attacked at position 04 33.5N, 000 15.6 E approximately 66NM South of Tema, Ghana.
“The vessel was approached and fired upon by a skiff boat with eight armed perpetrators on board. The vessel then stopped and five armed pirates with AK 47 boarded the vessel.
“The pirates upon getting on board instructed the vessel to alter course further South East and remained on board until 200145 hours UTC when they finally disembarked with the five expatriate crew members kidnapped.
“The exact location of the kidnapping and disembarkation is 03 56.4 N, 000 27.5 E approximately 103NM SSE of Tema. In all the pirates spent about six hours onboard the vessel.”
The report said two hours prior to the attack, a rusted looking mini tanker vessel was sighted far off the horizon with the AIS off.
“The vessel quickly moved away from the suspicious looking tanker,” it said, adding that it was highly likely that the pirates were using the tanker vessel as a mothership.
“Given the time lapse between the incident occurring and the reporting to coastal authorities, it is possible the pirates might have gotten closer to their final destination,” it said.
It, however, expressed the hope that a search around the Niger Delta region could help locate and intercept the pirates before they land ashore.
It encouraged the Coastal Authorities, especially Togo, Benin Republic and Nigeria, to increase monitoring and surveillance along their coastal areas to help intercept the pirate skiff boat.
“All mariners are cautioned that there is high possibility of pirates mothership in the form of a rusty looking small size tanker, operating in support of pirates within the general area deep offshore Tema and stretching further East into Togo, Benin and Nigeria EEZs,” it said.
“All vessels are, therefore, to exercise extra vigilance and preparedness to harden their vessels and report any suspicious boat/skiff immediately to coastal states for prompt response.”