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Lack of guards gave Tommi Ritscher pirates a free hand

A lack of guards on vessels could have allowed the pirates to attack the 5,000TEU container ship Tommi Ritscher on 19 April, according to Dryad Global.

According to Munro Anderson of Dryad Global up until the Covid-19 outbreak Benin and Togo Navy troops were placed on ships at anchorage, but that has stopped since the spread of the Coronavirus and this could have allowed the attack on the Portuguese flagged vessel.

Troops belonging to Nigerian special forces boarded the Portuguese container ship Tommi Ritscher on evening of 20 April unopposed, there was no sign of the pirates that attacked the vessel or the eight crew that had not managed to take refuge in the citadel.

Reports from the security firm Dryad Global said the 11 crew members that did take refuge in the citadel were rescued and are well.

It is understood that the crew contacted the Singapore office of the owners Transeste Schiffahrt via a satellite phone. “It is often difficult to communicate using these phones so there can be some confusion,” explained Anderson. He went on to say, the crew in the citadel, using cameras and other methods still thought the pirates were onboard.

Anderson said, “It was most likely that the crew had been kidnapped at an early stage of the attack, although another, less likely scenario was that the pirates had returned at a later stage.”

Anderson said that the Benin Navy vessel was within sight of the Tommi Ritscher and he thought it unlikely that the attackers would risk bringing another vessel alongside while the navy were in close attendance.

Tommi Ritscher had a crew of 19 of which three were Russians, the rest were Filipino, Bulgarian and Ukrainian nationals. At this stage it is not known which crew members were snatched.

Dryad Global believes that the attackers were most likely from the Southern Niger Delta who have started to operate further afield. Regionally the number of attacks has decreased, but their severity has increased, said Anderson. He added that there is “little or no security presence beyond Nigeria.” Anderson believes that the perpetrators of these attacks are aware of this and have moved their operations further afield from the Nigerian waters.

Nick Savvides
Managing Editor

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