Atlantic Tuna Vessels On ‘Moderate’ Alert Following Recent Ghana Pirate Attack

 A pirate attack in Ghanaian waters in March is a source of "moderate" concern for tuna fishing firms active in the Atlantic Ocean, even though the situation is not as alarming as the Indian Ocean pirate emergency a few years ago, several industry sources told Undercurrent News.

"We received detailed information from the [Spanish] navy's operations and surveillance center of maritime action on the situation in the Gulf of Guinea," Borja Alonso, director of legal affairs and sustainability at Albacora, told Undercurrent News.

"It is true that there is an increase in piratical activity more related to what some call 'armed robbery at sea', sometimes linked to attacks in anchorages, or fuel theft. But we understand that, although we follow these events with concern -- the kidnapping that happened in March could have affected anyone -- we are far from the situations that occurred in the Indian Ocean some time ago," Alonso also said.

A second Spanish source confirmed that his firm had received updates on the recent attack from Spanish authorities.

A third source at a French fishing company pointed out that, if there was another attack in Ghanaian waters affecting a tuna purse seiner, alarm level in the industry would rise.

Last March, Nigerian pirates have kidnapped five crew members from fishing vessel Marine 711, including three Korean officers and one Greek national, after having boarded on the vessel from a speedboat.

The attackers held hostages and released them following payment of a ransom, a couple of tuna industry sources speculated, a fact that is denied by the company.

The vessel belongs to Korean fishing firm Silla's subsidiary in Ghana, sources said.

After the attack, fourteen local tuna fishing companies have temporarily halted their operations in Ghanaian waters for fear of pirate attacks, pending “positive assurance from the Ghana navy that the vessels and their crew will be safe at sea”.

On April 10, about 32 Ghanaian-flagged fishing vessels were anchored at the breakwaters in Tema off the fishing harbor.

Maritime piracy is a frequent occurrence in the Gulf of Guinea, especially near the Niger River Delta, where shore-based gangs often venture out to attack product tankers and offshore vessels, Maritime Executive reported.

Incessant pirate attacks and kidnappings in Nigeria’s territorial waters and the Gulf of Guinea contributed to increase freight costs by six times in the area, the Guardian Nigeria reported.

In the first four months of 2018, the number of incidents significantly increased in the region, with 36 reported, against 17 the same period in 2017, according to statistics from the International Maritime Organization.

A surge in armed attacks against ships around West Africa is pushing up global levels of piracy and armed robbery at sea, the International Chamber of Commerce's International Maritime Bureau also warned, Graphic reported.