Tanker owner Union Maritime, released a statement in which it informs that its vessel, MT Barrett, a tanker which was at anchor off Benin, West Africa has not been heard from since late on Tuesday 9th January.
The company alerted the local authorities on Wednesday and is now exploring all possible options and efforts as it monitors the situation.
“Whilst we are tirelessly working to locate the vessel, our primary concern is for the 22 crew on board and ensuring their safety. Union Maritime regularly operates from ports in this region and has a rigorous safety and security protocol. Crews are repeatedly drilled in all safety and emergency procedures,” Union Maritime said.
Reports say that one possibility is that the tanker was hijacked, in order for its cargo to be stolen. Further updates will be provided as soon as they become available, Union Maritime noted. The MT Barrett is a 11,999-dwt tanker built 2005 and registered in the Marshall Islands.
This incident comes in a time where piracy, especially in West Africa, has increased. According to a report published by NGO Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) piracy is spreading, as except from HRA, piracy attacks were reported in West Africa as well, with the majority of them occurring in Nigeria. This is confirmed by a recent IMB report, which says that a total of 20 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.