A joint operation by authorities in west African nations has resulted in the arrest of ten hijackers and 18 crew of a hijacked fishing vessel being set free.
The alert was raised by the Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) through the regional online communications platform established under the West Africa Task Force (WATF), after fishing vessel Hai Lu Feng 11 had failed to respond for two days.
Intelligence was shared on the regional online communications platform to alert all FCWC Member States agencies.
The fact that its last-known position was in Togo’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), together with subsequent analysis of the vessel’s track led agencies to believe the vessel was headed toward Nigeria’s EEZ.
The Nigerian authorities were alerted and they deployed the Nigerian naval vessel Nguru to intercept the hijacked vessel.
The vessel crew members consisted of eight Chinese, seven Ivorians, and three Ghanaians.
According to a statement by the Nigerian Navy, pirates had taken control of Hai Lu Feng 11 in the waters of Cote d’Ivoire before heading for Nigerian territorial waters.
‘On interception of the vessel at about 140 nautical miles south of Lagos Fairway Buoy, the pirates refused to comply with orders,’ stated Nigerian Navy Commodore Ibrahim Shettima.
‘Hence, the NN had to conduct an opposed boarding of the vessel. All the ship’s crew were safely rescued, while the ten pirates were arrested,’ he added.
FCWC Secretary-General, Seraphin Dedi commended all national and regional agencies, and the WATF technical team for their efforts that resulted in the arrest of the pirates on the hijacked vessel.
‘This operation is a justification for the need of regional co-operation and demonstrated the mastering of the use of VMS by experts in the region and its usefulness for the monitoring of vessels, the fight against IUU fishing and the protection of human lives and goods,’ he said, adding that the co-operation that made this arrest possible further demonstrates the importance of communication and collaboration at the national and regional level and joint approaches to enforcement actions at sea.