Two deadly strikes within ten days is a clear manifestation that pirates who last year lost the battle at sea to the Ghana Navy and Airforce have reorganised and regained the abandoned territory.
The gangsters are currently holding in their comfort zone in the Niger Delta, expatriate seafarers who they abducted from Ghanaian flagged fishing vessels.
On Thursday, May 20, 2021 the criminal elements attacked a Ghanaian registered MV Atlantic Princess, 63 nautical miles south of Tema, during which time five expatriate sailors, a Korean, the Captain of the vessel, three Chinese and one Russian were taken away.
Motivated by that daring onslaught on Tuesday June 1, 2021 another Ghanaian registered fishing boat, MV Iris, fell within the targeted radar, though this time in Beninois waters along the Gulf of Guinea, captured four Koreans and one Filipino as captives.
Their present location is unknown but since the skiffs and crafts manoeuvred eastward, it is highly presumed that the captives have been added to earlier victims in the dreaded Niger Delta stronghold of the pirates.
Meanwhile, information The Chronicle obtained from both maritime and diplomatic circles indicated that the pirates and their ally negotiators, some alleged to have European and American roots, have placed their bargaining card on the table.
The negotiators are alleged to have placed one million United States of America dollars on each captive as ransom, though subject to downward review.
The Chronicle sources have hinted that unlike previous times when these gangsters were under one main body, the pirates now operate in splitter groups, under different command and controls.
This suggests that they are going to intensify their criminal activities in the Gulf of Guinea area, within the coming days.
Reports obtained from some earlier victims to the criminal sanctuary in the Niger Delta, who preferred anonymity, recount harrowing mental torture situations.
According to them, though the pirates do not normally apply physical assaults on the victims, they use mental torture to force their victims to speak to their home country or company they work for.
They are also threatened that they would be sold to an ‘Alhaji’ who will use them for rituals.
The Chronicle’s investigation in the maritime industry has revealed that not until Nigeria destabilises the Niger Delta strongholds of the illegal armed groups, present efforts to subdue pirates in the Gulf of Guinea will be naught.
It is suspected that the pirates, armed with sophisticated weapons, now roam the vast oceans with ‘mother ship’ which carries fast speeding skiffs and crafts, judging from the distance that they travel to attack the vessels at sea.
Also established is the fact that targeted ships are limited to oil tankers and fishing boats due to their designs, which make them easily accessible.
However, same cannot be said of merchant or cargo vessels that have been constructed with citadel compartments that provide protection for the crew against armed attack and from where they can also adopt a repulsive approach.
The armed attacks against vessels at sea is so frightening that operators of tuna fishing vessels are contemplating either mooring the vessels at the ports until such a time that the situation normalises or relocate to other countries to secure licenses to ply the trade.
Presently, the tuna boats go fishing at their own risk, against the background of frequent armed attacks by pirates.
When the crew are captured, the home countries and direct companies pay huge ransoms before their release.
Already, the local tuna industry, which operates two types of fishing methods, pole and line (hooking, using baits) and ring netting, used to encircle the school of migrating fish, is bedevilled with its own challenges.
Along the west coast of Africa, it is only Ghana that has a well-structured tuna industry and complying with the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) regulations religiously.
ICCAT demands vessels of members to have at least 75% crew localised, but in reality, localised crew on board tuna boats in Ghana is 90% and above.
Senegal and Ivory Coast are in the shadows of Ghana when it comes to the tuna industry where they have no localised crew, depending only on France and Spain.