Nine heavily armed pirates have attacked various vessels in Ghanaian waters around the Tema anchorage, and kidnapped five sailors, whom they are suspected to have taken to Nigerian waters.
Presenting a narrative to the media at the Tema Harbour on Wednesday, 28th March, 2018, Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Eastern Naval Command (ENC), Commodore J.O Kontoh said that the series of attacks on at least three vessels, started at the dawn of 26th March and continued into 28th.
About 0330 hours on that Monday, a speedboat powered by two outboard motors (175 and 75), loaded with nine persons suspected to be Nigerians, approached a vessel in the Tema anchorage area and under heavy arms commanded the crew on the vessel to weigh anchor.
They then headed eastward after taking charge of the vessel, towards the Togo waters, seaward, but the crew, upon realising the intention of the new captain, informed them of insufficient fuel to make the journey.
This caused the armed bandits to hijack another vessel – a tanker – and took two hostages from the first vessel and carried them along unto the newly accosted vessel.
The hoodlums asked the crew of the new vessel to head towards Bayielsa, in Nigeria, but unfortunate for them, the tanker also did not have sufficient fuel for the expedition.
The miscreants then took three more hostages from the tanker as they hijacked the two Ghanaian fishing vessels (MV MARINE 711 and 707) belonging to MARINE WORLD FISHERIES LTD in Tema.
The Ghanaian vessels were fishing at Ada, in the Greater Accra Region and locked up all the forty-five (45) crew members on board the vessel into a cabin, save the Second Officer Daniel Mensah, whom they dialogued with for their way of escape – for per Daniel, they seemed to have a bad idea of their compass.
The pirates then headed eastward towards the Togolese and Beninois waters and during the cover of the night, sneaked away in their speedboats towards Nigeria, with the five hostages (three Koreans, one Ghanaian and one Greek), leaving the Ghanaian vessel to be taken back by the Ghana Navy.
Speaking about the safety of Ghanaian waters and why the pirates were successful in operating thereat, Commodore Kontoh said that slip-offs may happen but what the security actors do afterwards, is what matters.
He urged all vessels within the anchorage to always keep in touch with port security to help bring them relief in times of distresses.
He also indicated that aircraft assistance was made available to help rescue the the Ghanaian vessels.
Speaking about their ordeal under the hands of the bandits, Officer Daniel Mensah said the pirates caught them by surprise with their speed and also for the fact that they were not on the move, but were fishing.
He said their only recourse was to call the Ghana Navy, but they had to abandon the enterprise midway, since the bandits seemed to gain rapidly on them and were listening in to the distress call and queried them as to why they tried contacting the Navy.
A number of the Ghanaian crew were assaulted by the talisman-wearing bandits, who bore such heavy armor, thus cowing their hostages into proper submission.
Daniel Mensah said that it was on the Beninois waters that an aircraft, which he suspects, must have intercepted their attempted distress call, slowed their voyage as it came encircling their vessel, prompting the pirates to put off the speed.
The aircraft gave instructions to Daniel and called for help for the vessel which was later taken back to Ghana by the Ghana Navy duty ship.
Daniel attested to the fact that their vessels are not equipped with security measures and that on sea, they act as their own security. Investigations continue.
By Kofi Ampeah-Woode, Tema Harbour