Friday, May 4, 2012

West African pirates grab 'BW Rhine'

The Singapore-managed LR1 ‘BW Rhine’ loaded with gasoline was suspected to have been hijacked by pirates while at anchor off Lome, Togo.

Potengal Mukundan, director of the London-based International Maritime Bureau (IMB), told AFP international, warships and navies from neighbouring countries have been alerted and are searching for the ship, which has 24 crew members and was reported missing by the operators on Tuesday.

Later, managers BW Maritime confirmed that the vessel was hijacked on 28th April off Togo.

The status of the tanker, was not known, Nick Fell, Singapore-based general counsel for BW Maritime, told Bloomberg. The last contact the company had with the ship’s crew was on 30th April, he said.

She was partially laden with refined fuel oil when hijacked. BW Maritime said that the company had been working with local navies to locate her.

The tanker sailed to West Africa from Ventspils, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, Mukundan, who was in Kuala Lumpur for a series of meetings with industry and government players, said in similar past cases the pirates would transfer the gasoline cargo to other ships and then sell it on.

"Here we have criminal gangs whose main purpose is to steal multi-million cargo, which is gasoline, as it has a ready market. It is very easy to dispose of it. There has been an underground trade in the Gulf of Guinea for decades," he told AFP.

Mukundan said that thus far this year, there had been 19 attacks off the Gulf of Guinea, West Africa, with two vessels hijacked. Some 42 crew have been taken hostage, two crew members killed and two kidnapped by pirates.

He painted a grim picture for the rest of the year and warned the safety of seafarers continued to be threatened by pirates and urged vessel masters and owners to alert IMB of any incidents and of suspicious vessels, AFP reported.

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