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A German container ship attacked off Nigeria. The Portuguese Navy intervenes (v3)

(B2) The Maersk Tema, a German container ship, was attacked on Friday (February 14) off the Nigerian coast, by a pirate group consisting of two small fast motor boats. The crew was able to get away safe and sound

The NRP Zaire patrol boat (credit: Portuguese Navy)

A clear sign of hacker attack

The Maersk Tema (flagged to the Marshall Islands, owned by Bernhard Schulte Ship and operated by Peter Doehle Schiffart) was sailing Friday morning at 20 knots off São Tomé in the Gulf of Guinea, coming from Pointe Noire (Congo) towards Lagos (Nigeria), when the man on watch detected the suspicious approach of a boat. The container ship was then 100 nautical miles (185 km) northwest of Sao Tome, according to the report provided to the maritime authorities (received by B2).

Safe in the Citadel

At once, " 17 of the 21 crew fall back into the citadel (= strong, secret and secure room of the boat), allowing them to escape capture. The captain and three crew members remain on the bridge in order to carry out deception maneuvers », for example navigate in zigzag, which aims to prevent the boarding of the ship. But these maneuvers are not enough, the pirates manage to board. The team still present on the bridge and the captain " then quickly reach the citadel ».

The alerts go

From this secure space, the captain immediately alerts the MDAT-GoG (Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade – Gulf of Guinea) hosted in Brest within the maritime safety center of expertise MICA (1) Center. The Company Safety Officer (CSO) is also notified. The shipowner's crisis unit assigns a Nigerian security vessel, the SVS Teach (2). While the MICA Center sets off the Portuguese patrol vessel Zaire. The latter is then at the end of the coastguard training mission in Sao Tome and Principe. The Portuguese Navy's Maritime Operations Center (COMAR) transmitted the call to him.

No suspicious activity

The Nigerian ship that arrives first (2). The pirates have apparently already fled. Sailors come aboard to carry out an inspection of the ship. They find no suspicious activity. The Portuguese ship arrives shortly after, around 2 a.m. on Saturday. A boarding party cruises the bridge. No pirate is present. The crew can then exit the 'citadel' and regain command of the ship.

Direction: Lagos under escort

The container ship was deemed safe at 5:00 a.m., continuing its journey to the port of Lagos in Nigeria indicates the staff of the Portuguese forces, escorted to Lagos by the Teach. The Portuguese vessel carried out surveillance of the vessel, during the navigation period, and no suspicious activity was detected during transit. No casualties were reported. We do not know the fate of the pirates, who are wanted.

The good reflex

« The captain of Maersk Tema had the right reflex by immediately contacting the MDAT-GoG unit at the MICA Center “, commented the corvette captain of Gilles Chehab, commander of the center of expertise of the French Navy with a global vocation, based in Brest. " This action made it possible to mobilize the actors of the region and to intervene to put an end to the threat.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Read also: Robbery common in Nigerian ports

  1. This is indeed a private vessel and not a Nigerian Navy vessel as (erroneously) mentioned at one time.
  2. It took almost 15 hours after the Nigerian patrol boat was alerted SVS Teach to join the attacked ship, is astonished Mikhail Voytenko owner of the 'Maritime bulletin'. " Several Nigerian patrol boats or vessels were however much closer to the container ship in distress, but they stuck to their mission and did not respond. ". NB: This point can easily be explained. The intervention on a pirate group cannot be done by any ship or any team. It takes some specialized, trained and armed personnel for this purpose.

Updated on 17.2 with more specific information on the intervention of the NRP Zaire. The box has been separated for readability in a separate article

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).