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Tanker Shipping & Trade

Pirates release tanker and 22 crew held hostage off African coast

Tue 16 Jan 2018 by Jamey Bergman

Pirates release tanker and 22 crew held hostage off African coast
The 12,000 DWT Barrett was last heard from late on 9 January

A clean product tanker and the 22 crew onboard who were overtaken by pirates in the Bight of Benin have been safely recovered.

Shipowners Union Maritime confirmed the release in their third statement since losing contact with crew and losing track of the ship's location when its AIS data stopped updating. 

"Union Maritime can confirm that 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," the statement said.

According to the statement, authorities from Benin, Togo, Nigeria and India all participated in recovering the vessel and its crew. The company said the crew had returned to Lagos, Nigeria where Union Maritime staff were on hand to provide aid. 

Timeline of the attack 

Previous statements from the company gave more detail about the timeline of the ship attack. 

"The Union Maritime vessel, Barrett, a tanker which was at anchor off Benin, West Africa, has been the subject of a Gulf of Guinea piracy attack since 10 January," the company's second statement said. 

The group said the safety of the crew was its first priority throughout the search for the vessel and in attempting to bring the incident to a resolution.

Company spokesperson and Navigate Response crisis response manager Dustin Eno told Tanker Shipping and Trade the company had been actively working with all relevant parties to ensure the situation was resolved “successfully and as quickly as possible”.

Contact with the 12,000 DWT Barrett was lost on the morning of 10 January, when it was at anchor off Benin, West Africa, according to Union Maritime's first statement. 

"On Wednesday (10 January), we alerted local maritime authorities and [explored] all possible options and efforts as we continuously [monitored] the situation," the group said.

Union Maritime said it regularly operates vessels from ports in the region and that all of its vessels' crews are repeatedly drilled in safety and emergency procedures. 

According to AIS data from Genscape's VesselTracker software, the Marshall Islands-registered Barrett left an anchorage off the port of Lagos, Nigeria in the evening of 5 January, proceeding west until it reached the vicinity of Lomé, Togo, on the morning of 6 January. It departed the area in the afternoon of 8 January and was headed east until it abruptly turned to port, towards land in Cotonou, Benin (see image below), when its AIS tracking data ceased updating. The vessel's AIS tracking was restored late on 17 January, showing it proceeding into port at Lagos, Nigeria, where it is currently anchored.

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