Report on the B.Ocean Hijacking
The South Korean-owned vessel MT B.Ocean was hijacked on Wednesday night (23/11/2022) at 23:11 UTC. This attack is the second time the ship has been hijacked by pirates this year. This article will overview both attacks on the vessel and discuss the increasing concerns over oil-related crime in the region.
Up to $3,178,080 of cargo was potentialy stolen
Contact was lost with B.Ocean at 23:11 UTC around 240NM south of Abidjan in Ivory Coast. The ship has the flag of the Marshall Islands and is owned by South Korean Shipping.
Two South Koreans and 17 Indonesians were the crew on board the vessel. Pirates boarded the ship armed with firearms and destroyed the communication and navigation equipment.
The crew reached the citadel and alerted authorities to the situation whilst the pirates stole the vessel's cargo, likely oil, given that it was stolen in the first attack in January.
Pirates destroyed the navigation and communication equipment
The crude oil capacity for B.Ocean is 39,726 bbl (billion barrels). Based on prices being an average of $80 per barrel, that would work out to be a market value of up to $3,178,080 that pirates potentially stole.
Sea Conditions During Attack
The wave height during the attack was around 1.2 metres, placing the conditions at sea state 3. Whilst ideal conditions for pirate boardings are sea state 2 and below, the B.Ocean has a freeboard of 2 metres, allowing for far easier boarding in rougher conditions.
The South Korean Foreign Ministry reported that the vessel was released at 11:15UTC to head to Abidjan. The crew and the ship are reported to be safe, with no damage or injuries, except for the navigation and communication equipment.
The B.Ocean was also attacked in roughly the same area on the 24th of January, 54NM SSW of Abidjan. Communication was lost for 17 hours during this attack. DRYAD Global reported that locals in Western Ghana saw unknown people not identified as locals launching a skiff with a powerful outboard motor.
Before kidnap for ransom was a significant problem in the Gulf of Guinea, piracy revolved around the syphoning of oil.
This report is plausible as the typology of piracy seen in Abidjan is low-level port crimes rather than venturing into international waters. However, we do not know if these men were responsible for the first attack or if they would have launched from Ghana for the second. 977 tonnes of oil was stolen and the crew and vessel were reported safe in this attack.
Concerning the cargo stolen from the vessel, oil fits into the typology of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. Before kidnap for ransom was a significant problem in the Gulf of Guinea, piracy revolved around the syphoning of oil.
For example, tens of thousands of barrels are stolen daily from pipelines, with Nigeria falling short of its oil production quotas. According to allegations, stolen oil is sold on international markets with corruption critical for the acquisition and sale of the oil.
Overall, this type of attack on an oil vessel is nothing new for the region. It may be hypothesised that the vessel was targeted again by the same pirate group. However, the low freeboard of the ship with oil as the cargo would make it an attractive target for any pirate group with connections to the illegal oil trade. NIMASA and other regional security forces must remain vigilant to prevent the illegal oil trade's piracy aspect from worsening, continuing the trend of reducing piracy. The development of the illicit oil trade will be watched closely in 2023 as it presents another regional maritime security problem.
Advanced Anti-piracy Counter Measures
Razor wire alone is not an effective primary layer of defence against piracy attacks, as is evident in nearly all examples. The purpose of razor wire is to deter intruders from accessing fenced-off areas, such as buildings or land. It was not designed to prevent heavily armed pirate gangs with climbing equipment like ladders. This is why it fails.
96% of vessels attacked are boarded
Anti-piracy barriers are specially designed to prevent pirates from using ladders, grappling hooks and climbing poles, and boarding ships.
Anti-piracy barriers are available to rent from Palaemon Maritime.