Missing Tanker Found; Account of Pirate Attack Disputed
M/T Kerala vanished on January 18 off Angola; Angolan Navy says hijacking faked.
The Angolan Navy is claiming that the crew of an oil tanker reported missing off its coast on Jan. 18 were part of faked pirate attack. Separately, a regional security expert who declined to be named for the purposes of this report, expressed doubt as to the accuracy or motives of the Angolan Navy statements.
The Sonangol time-chartered vessel was eventually located in Nigerian waters. Previously, the crude oil tanker was reported missing from Luanda anchorage and thought to be hijacked by pirates. All communications with the tanker had been lost. On 26 Jan 2014 the Master made contact with the owners reporting that the tanker had been released and that the pirates had stolen a large amount of cargo. One crew was reported injured during the hijacking.
Sonangol said last week that M/T Kerala had a mixed crew of 27 Indians and Filipinos on board. Reports of the attack fueled fears that piracy incidents, already up by one-third last year off West Africa, would impact local Angolan energy production. Angola is said to be Africa's second largest crude oil producer.
Reports of the attack, if confirmed to be true, would mark the most southerly attack to date in the region.