The latest kidnap of 20 Indian crew off Lomé, brings the total number of seized Indian personnel within West Africa to 89 since the beginning of this year, thus comprising the highest proportion of kidnapped crew operating in West Africa, security consultancy estimates.
As Indian mariners represent the largest proportion of crew nationalities, a total ban on Indian nationals serving as crew within the region could potentially impact the commercial costs of operating, Dryad Global said.
TWENTY crew members were abducted from the Marshall Islands-flagged Duke off Nigeria, ship manager V. Ships Ship Management (India) confirmed.
All the seafarers taken hostage were Indian nationals, it said.
“With the confirmation of 20 Indian nationals kidnapped this latest incident represents the largest kidnapping event in West Africa within 2019,” according to security consultancy, Dryad Global.
The consultant said that the latest kidnap of Indian crew off Lomé, brings the total number of seized Indian personnel within West Africa to 89 since the beginning of this year, thus making up the highest proportion among kidnapped crew in the region.
The incident follows the abduction of 19 Indian nationals from the Nave Constellation on December 4 this year.
This is, however, not the largest incident involving the kidnap of Indian personnel, with one larger event originating offshore Benin last year involving the kidnapping of 22 Indian personnel from Marine Express, the consultants noted.
“The waters of Togo and Benin have thus far experienced a very slight reduction in number of incidents when set against those of 2018,” it added, pointing out in particular that there were five cases of seafarer kidnapping this year compared with none in 2018.
“There has been a significant increase in serious maritime crime and there is a direct increase to the risk facing vessels and crews within this area.”
Meanwhile, the government of India had issued a restriction earlier this year banning all Indian seafarers from working on vessels in the Gulf of Guinea.
In a circular sent to ship owners and shipping companies, India’s Directorate General of Shipping had said that the move comes on the back of an increasing rate of piracy and hijacking of crew for ransom in Nigerian waters.
So far, the restrictions appear to have been unenforceable.
As Indian mariners represent the largest proportion of crew nationalities, a total ban on Indian nationals serving as crew within the region could potentially impact the commercial costs of operating in the region, forcing up insurance and increasing personnel costs for technical managers, Dryad conceded.
Update on Duke
The ship managers said that a Togo naval patrol boat has made contact with the vessel and a tug with new sea-staff, including a master, is proceeding towards the ship with a naval escort, to resume command of the Marshall Islands flagged tanker.
“Owners and managers are working closely with all the appropriate authorities and specialists to secure the safe and speedy release of the crew members being held, this being the upmost priority,” the ship manager said.
“Families of those kidnapped are being informed of the situation.”
The ship manager added that it would not provide any operational details going forward that might jeopardise the safety and safe return of those being held.