Eleven crewmen onboard a Portuguese flagged container ship, MV TOMMI RITSCHER, have been rescued from a pirate attack by operatives of Nigerian Navy Special Boat Service (NN SBS) and Benin Navy in Beninoius territorial waters. Maj.-Gen. John Enenche, Defence Headquarters Spokesman, said in a statement on Thursday that the pirate attack was foiled under the auspices of ECOWAS Maritime Zone E Naval operation comprising Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Niger Republic Gendarmerie.
The vessel was reportedly attacked by unknown number of gunmen at Zone 3 anchorage in Cotonou waters at about 23.00 hours on April 18. “At the time of the attack, there were 19 crew members comprising Ukrainian, Bulgarian and Filipinos. “Following the pirate attack, the NN received a request for assistance from the Benin Navy under the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) of ECOWAS Zone E,” he said. He said the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) OSE deployed 10 Nigeria Navy special boat service’s operatives and proceeded to the objective area. “NNS OSE and the SBS boarding team arrived the objective area on April 19 to join two other vessels (P110 QUEME and ZOU) from the Benin Navy already in the area. “Consequently, NNS OSE and the other 2 Benin Navy patrol boats adopted a patrol plan around the MV TOMMI RITSCHER throughout the night of April 19. “To ensure that the pirates, if still onboard, would not have any room to escape,” he said. According to him, after the necessary briefings, the boarding operations commenced at about 17.30 on April 20, with the NN SBS elements in the lead.
After the successful boarding of the ship, which eventually was to be unopposed, 11 crew members were rescued from different parts of the ship. “However, eight crew members of the ship and the pirates could not be located onboard the ship, the SBS remained onboard to ensure security of the vessel and the crew. “MV TOMMI RITSCHER came alongside to Cotonou Port for a more comprehensive search of the ship on April 21,” he said. He said that the team was received by the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS) of the Benin Navy as well as the Defence Attache and Deputy Defence Attache of the Nigerian Embassy in Cotonou. He added that the CNS of Benin also addressed the ship’s company of NNS OSE and the NN SBS team and gave them a letter of commendation for a job well done. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that in 2013, Gulf of Guinea Heads of State and Government met in Yaounde, Cameroon to adopt the Yaoundé Declaration on the Gulf of Guinea Security. Two key resolutions contained in the Declaration are on the creation of an inter-regional coordination centre on maritime safety and security for Central and West Africa to be headquartered in Yaoundé. It also contained implementation of a new Code of Conduct concerning the prevention and repression of piracy, armed robbery against ships and illegal maritime activities in West and Central Africa. This declaration also paved way for the creation and organisation of Gulf of Guinea Navies into maritime zones. Nigeria, Republic of Benin, Togo and Gendarmerie of the Republic of Niger formed the ECOWAS Maritime Zone E under the Yaoundé Declaration. It is against this background that the feat achieved by the Nigerian and Benin Republic Navies represents a concrete step toward the operationalisation of the ECOWAS Maritime Zone E framework.