Stena Oil's bunker tanker seized off Benin

08 Mar 2011

Armed pirates briefly seized the master and second engineer of a Turkish tanker in a failed cargo theft bid off West Africa last week which has only now come to light.

Some crew members of the 3,165-dwt Duzgit Venture suffered minor injuries during the one-and-a-half day ordeal which began off Benin on Thursday and ended off Nigeria.

The incident involving the Malta-flagged chemical tanker is the latest in a string of successful and aborted attempts by bandits in the region to illegally lighter ships’ cargoes.

Fourteen pirates in two boats approached the 2009-built tanker which was underway offshore Cotonou on Thursday, a report from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) read without identifying the ship concerned. A well informed source fingered the Duzgit Venture and this was confirmed by a spokesperson at its Turkish operator, Densa Tankers.

“They took control of the crewmembers and ordered the master to sail the tanker to Gabon,” the IMB’s report read.

“Master advised the pirates that the bunkers were not enough and the pirates demanded to sail 60 nm off Gabon to wait for a lightering barge. After failing to meet with the barge off Gabon, the pirates asked the master to sail towards Warri, Nigeria to lighter the cargo.”

The ship’s Turkish owner, Duzgit Group, was in frequent contact with the vessel which caused the pirates to “panic” and head towards Lagos, the report claimed.

“They contacted some local fast boats and abandoned their plans to steal the cargo. They stole ship’s properties, crew personal belongings and left the tanker upon reaching three nm off Badagri.”

The Densa source confirmed the master and second engineer, both of whom are Turkish, were force to sail the pirates ashore at Badagri in the ship’s own lifeboat but were then allowed to return to the tanker in the boat. Some of the 13 crew comprising 11 Turks and one each from Georgia and Azerbaijan received unspecified but minor injuries, the source added.

The ship is currently anchored at Cotonou with a decision pending on what steps to take regarding its next port of call. All relevant authorities were informed of the incident but the Densa spokesperson said there is little hope that the culprits will be caught.

A request for comment from Istanbul-based owner Duzgit was not returned. by Eoin O'Cinneide in London