Just off of the coast of Nigeria on Wednesday, a U.S. ship was attacked by pirates, which resulted in the kidnapping of two Americans. The C-Retriever, a U.S.-flagged oil supply vessel, was specifically targeted by the pirates for their oil just off of the Gulf of Guinea. The vessel is owned by Edison Chouest Offshore, a Louisiana-based company. According to various maritime news reports, the two Americans that were captured include the chief engineer of the ship and the ship's captain. U.S. officials suspect that the kidnappers will eventually seek to ransom the victims for a high price.
Reports show that this region holds no U.S. warships; at this time officials are merely investigating the situation with no immediate plans for a rescue. At this time, the State Department claims they are seeking information about the accident before they determine their next move. Fortunately, the U.S. Marines have a contingency agreement with a nearby Dutch warship due to the military exchange program they are a part of.
Pirate Attacks are on the Rise
In April 2009, a similar situation occurred in which an American captive agreed to be held captive on his own as a way to protect his entire crew from being held hostage. Capt. Phillips was rescued by the U.S. Navy Seals when they used snipers to kill the three Somali pirates that were holding him. Sadly, reports believe that this week's incident is much more severe than that of Somali's kidnapping.
According to a U.K-based risk management firm AKE, in the past two years, they have seen an increase in pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea. In fact, just this past August the Navy took the lives of 12 pirates after they hijacked a fuel tanker. Reports by the International Maritime Bureau report that in just the first 9 months of 2013, Nigeria has already seen 29 vessels attacked by pirates, 8 more than last year for the same period.
The IMB shares that all pirate attacks from this year were located in the Gulf of Guinea. Only two occurred in Togo and the remaining 32 were off the coasts of Nigeria. Since the new discovery of oil reserves in West Africa, there has been a great increase for oil vessel traffic, a likely reason behind the many attacks. Now, more than ever, the area is a high-risk target for attacks and therefore the greatest threat to the security of the maritime industry. Earlier this month, Risk Intelligence, a Denmark-based security firm, claims that over $100 million has been taken by pirates in this area since 2010.
Arnold & Itkin's Experience Helping Maritime Piracy Victims
In the past, we represented two American seaman who were victims of a Nigerian pirate attack. The victim's ship was overtaken because of the engine's poor repairs. The maintenance errors on the ship were reported to Chouest. At the same time, our clients were receiving a number of threats from the pirates and they again made reports to the company. Chouest failed again to take any action for in order to improve the vessels conditions even though it is their responsibility to do so.
In the lawsuit that we filed for our client, we discussed that the captain had, on multiple occasions, reported these threats and bad repairs to the company and the company continually claimed that our client should not worry about it. Though the company discussed the situation at hand, no active steps were taken on behalf of the ship for repairs or removal out of the dangerous area. Sadly, the pirates soon came aboard their ship and attacked our clients and stole their equipment.
In another case, we represented foreign workers who were kidnapped and then taken to the shores of Africa where they were held captive. During this week, the pirates sought to extort a random from Trico and the victims were badly beaten. The company they worked for at the time was aware about their vessels threats from pirates and failed to act as well.
Contacting a Maritime Piracy Lawyer
Though pirate attacks may not be as common as other tragic occurrences in our world, they are not unheard of either. As stated above, just this year between January and September there have been 34 piracy incidents, all of which have occurred in the Gulf of Guinea. Our legal team at Arnold & Itkin has countless experience with victims in the maritime industry, and we are here to help you during this difficult and confusing time. Please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss any questions or concerns you may have.