Thursday, September 15, 2011


Heavily armed pirates seized a tanker, the Mattheos I, off the coast of Benin and kidnapped 23 sailors on September 14. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which tracks piracy worldwide, said pirates boarded the Cyprus-registered tanker as it idled some 62 nautical miles from Benin's capital of Cotonou. Pirates attacked as the tanker was attempting to transfer its cargo of crude oil to a Norwegian-registered ship.

COMMENT: The Mattheos had a crew of Filipinos, with Spanish, Peruvian and Ukrainian officers. A spokeswoman for Spain's Foreign Ministry said Spaniards accounted for less than five of the hostages. The pirates attacked the Norwegian ship at the same time, though the crew was able to lock themselves into a safe room and wait for the attackers to leave.

Last month, London-based Lloyd's Market Association (an umbrella group of insurers), listed Nigeria and neighboring Benin in the same risk category as Somalia, where two decades of war and anarchy have allowed piracy to flourish. According to the IMB, Nigeria and Benin reported 18 pirate attacks in the first half of 2011.

As I've emphasized in the past, solutions aimed at deterring and preventing at-sea piracy are not difficult, although it does require some funding, commitment to crew protection and technology.

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