A laden product tanker was drifting 20 miles outside a West African port where it would discharge its cargo. There had been pirate attacks in the area and so the Master had ordered preventive measures in line with the SSP.
Two ABs were assigned to the poop deck and forecastle, and they were also assigned to monitor the main deck. The crew prepared the deck and attached a single coil of barbed wire on the poop deck, forecastle and on the railing around the vessel; locked all doors and turned on all the outside lights. The Chief Officer noticed that a couple of lights were broken amidships and told the Bosun to repair them the next day.
Meanwhile, the agent had called the Master and informed him that the berth would be occupied for another two days and would be in contact when the berth was ready.
After midnight, the Second Officer was on watch and monitoring a VHF channel dedicated to local navy broadcasts. The main engine was kept running so the vessel could manoeuvre instantly, and two ABs carried out regular patrols on deck.
Shortly after midnight, a small boat slowly approached the vessel. It stopped amidships by the broken lights where the freeboard was only 2 metres. The boat crew put a ladder on the railing, which had a carpet attached to protect them from the barbed wire, and climbed onboard. None of the ABs saw the small boat approaching.
The boat did not give a stable echo reading on the radar as it was made of wood and the choppy sea interfered.
The five men who climbed onboard were pirates and armed with machine guns. They made their way to the poop deck and surprised the AB on watch.
The pirates demanded that the AB should take them to the bridge or they would kill him. When they had secured the bridge, they asked for the Chief Engineer to be brought to the bridge. He was beaten when he arrived and told that he would be killed if he tried to sabotage the engine and that any engineer would be killed if they tampered with the engines.
The Second Officer was told to show two of the pirates to the Master’s cabin and the other three remained on the bridge with an AB and the Chief Engineer. The Master was forcefully woken up, beaten and forced to open the safe and give all the money to the pirates.
When the Master was taken to the bridge, ten more pirates had arrived. A larger vessel was drifting alongside which looked like a fishing boat. One of the pirates identified himself as the leader and explained to the Master that all the crew should be summoned to the mess room. If anyone resisted or tried to sabotage anything on the vessel he would be killed.
All the crew, except the Master, were placed in the mess room and their hands were tied. The Master remained on the bridge. One of the SSAS buttons was under a radar console but the Master was not close to it and was too scared to push it.
The pirates took control of the vessel and sailed it for ten hours when they stopped beside another smaller tanker. They started a ship-to-ship operation and when the other tanker had been loaded it sailed off. The other two pirate boats had followed and were drifting alongside the vessel.
The pirates took the Master to the mess room and tied him to a chair. He finally freed himself and when he reached the bridge he realised that the pirates had left, because both pirate boats were gone. He called the office and informed them what had happened.