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Pirates have violently attacked a vessel in the Gulf of Guinea, injuring two crew members with another reported missing.

This latest attack has occurred less than three months since the launch of the Nigerian government’s Deep Blue Project.

During the attack, which has been confirmed by the International Maritime Bureau Piracy Centre (IMB PRC), five individuals in a speedboat approached the vessel, fired upon it, and then boarded it. The first officer and cook were shot, and the second engineer was reportedly thrown overboard and is yet to be found.

To remind, the Nigerian government launched the Deep Blue Project earlier this year to tackle piracy in the Gulf, which is now the worst-affected area worldwide, using land, sea and air assets.

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The Gulf of Guinea region has a legacy of piracy, armed robbery and armed criminality. From politically motivated early militant groups, such as MEND, staging attacks against oil and gas infrastructure to modern-day criminal groups taking foreign crewmembers for ransom from international vessels transiting deep off the West African coast, piracy and maritime criminality has proven to be elusive to the many efforts to counter it. Indeed, for the past five years, the focus of piracy activities in the Gulf of Guinea has shifted from pirate groups targeting vessels to steal oil cargo (petro piracy) to current Kidnap for Ransom (K&R) piracy, with cases of up to 18 crewmembers kidnapped per incident.

Pirates of the Niger Delta delineates three types of pirate and maritime criminal groups, which operate in the region:

  • Deep Offshore Pirates are capable of operating far from the coast of West Africa and target international shipping traffic. Deep Offshore pirate groups have become increasingly more sophisticated, as for example seen in their ability to take more hostages per attack. These groups have expanded their geographic reach further into the Gulf of Guinea, when incidents were previously concentrated in Nigerian waters. The number of Deep Offshore pirate groups is estimated to be between four and six.
  • Coastal and Low-Reach Pirates operate up to 40nm from shore, primarily targeting local vessels. These groups usually operate close to their hideouts, or bases, onshore and have a limited operational range capacity. The targets are mainly fishing vessels operating along the coast, oil and gas support vessels and cargo vessels and tankers engaged in cabotage operations. Their modus operandi includes looting, racketeering and kidnapping for ransom, focused more on local crew than on foreign seafarers.

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Following the recent COVID-19 outbreak in China, Oasis P&I club summarized the current situation at various Chinese ports.

Generally, all ports are still operating. Due to enhanced epidemic control measures, some ports are congested to different extents.

In fact, terminal staff, pilot, surveyor, etc. has to be quarantined for 14 days after a service, while needs to be arranged for international trading vessels, especially vessels considered to have high epidemic risks on board.

There is a shortage of pilots at some ports, thus vessels’ berthing and departing may be delayed.  What is more, crew shore leave is generally completely disallowed.

For Dalian, Bayuquan, Jinzhou, Dandong port, local port operator or manager, and the customs /immigration authorities usually require incoming vessel to declare and provide a temperature monitoring table for all crew members covering the previous 21days prior to the ship’s berthing, together with a health declaration form for all the crew members.

Some terminals may require the ship’s itinerary in the past 28 days, crew boarding time and location, etc., as well as letter of declaration to confirm that no crew will disembark or to confirm that no accompanying persons and/or illegal immigrant are on board the vessel.

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Five workers were killed and six injured in Sunday’s fire on an offshore platform in the southern Gulf of Mexico that cut about a quarter of Mexico’s oil production.

The fire broke out as crews were performing maintenance on the platform, and a search for missing workers continues, Pemex Chief Executive Octavio Romero announced.

The platform remains out of operation, with about 421,000 barrels per day of oil lost and 125 wells offline, he said.

Following the incident, the company plans to resume power supply to the facility and connected wells as soon as possible, aiming to restore gas and oil output afterward. The impact of the accident on Pemex’s monthly production and exports had not yet been estimated, Romero said.