(photo: Anthoinette de Jager, vesseltracker.com)
Providing a reminder that piracy is not just a problem off the Horn of Africa comes with the news that pirates boarded a Liberian-flagged, German-operated tanker earlier today. The Cancale Star was attacked by six or seven pirates, according to the tanker's captain, Jarolslavs Semenovics. They boarded the vessel as she was steaming about 18 nautical miles off the coast of Benin, put a gun to the head of a deckhand and gained entry to the ship. They then forced Captain Semenovics to open the ship's safe and emptied it of cash. The attack occurred after nightfall, local time.
At some point during the boarding, the tanker's chief officer was injured by the pirates and later died. Four other crew were also wounded, one seriously. There were 26 crew aboard the tanker at the time of the attack, and some of them managed to grab one of the pirates before the boarders fled in their speedboat. The suspect apparently is from nearby Nigeria, the hub of West Africa piracy, and has been handed over to authorities in Benin.
AFP reports the captain as saying the Cancale Star was carrying crude from Nigeria, but Bloomberg says she was loaded with gasoil from northwest Europe and inbound to the Benin port of Cotonou, where the tanker is now docked. (Gasoil is a European term for No. 2 heating oil and diesel fuel.)
Pirates operating in the Gulf of Guinea have a reputation of being much more violent than their Somali brethren, and though overall incidents of piracy in the region are far below the numbers we see off East Africa, this region is still the second worst for attacks on mariners.