NORWEGIAN shipping company JJ Ugland has reported nine crew members from one of its ships have been seized by pirates off the west coast of Africa.

The bulker MV Bonita (IMO 9231286), a Liberian-flagged ship, was boarded by pirates in the early hours of Saturday local time while at anchor off Cotonou/Benin.

According to Ugland, nine crew members were taken off the ship while it was waiting to berth and discharge a cargo of gypsum.

The remaining crew notified local authorities.

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In a company statement, JJ Ugland said their emergency response team was handling the situation as per contingency plans, and they were in contact with authorities.

“The families of the crewmembers have been contacted and will be kept informed by Ugland,” the company statement read.

“In the interest of the wellbeing of the crewmembers Ugland will not make any further comments regarding the situation.”

While global piracy incidents are generally considered to have trended downwards, the coast of West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea remain hot spots.

According to a report prepared for the International Commercial Crime Services, part of the International Chamber of Commerce, the Gulf of Guinea remains “a high risk area for piracy and armed robbery”.

“The region accounts for 86% of crew taken hostage and nearly 82% of crew kidnappings globally,” the report stated.

Incidents have included a general cargo vessel being hijacked in July with ten crew members kidnapped and released four weeks later.

In August a bulk carrier and a general cargo vessel were boarded within hours of each other at Douala anchorage, Cameroon and a total of seventeen crew were kidnapped from the vessels.

ICC IMB director Pottengal Mukundan said such incidents were cause for concern.

“Although incidents are down, the Gulf of Guinea continues to be a concern for piracy and armed robbery-related activities with kidnappings of crew members increasing in both scale and frequency,” Mr Mukundan said.

“It is important that shipmasters and owners continue to report all actual, attempted, and suspected incidents to ensure that an accurate picture of these attacks emerge and action is taken.”

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