Owners have been warned of an increased likelihood of pirate attacks off West Africa after an increasingly rare incident involving the boarding of a Greek bulker.

The 61,000-dwt ultramax Arch Gabriel (built 2015) was attacked on 2 April, 277 nautical miles south of Lome in Togo.

The vessel is operated by Greece’s Tri Bulk Shipping, which has been contacted for further information.

The Italian navy responded by sending its frigate Luigi Rizzo and a helicopter to the scene.

The navy later reported that all crew were safe.

The pirates were estimated to have been on board for more than nine hours.

The vessel was in international waters south-west of the Niger delta at the time.

The Arch Gabriel was heading to Lagos in Nigeria with a freeboard of 5.3 metres, security company Ambrey said.

The company understands that the crew gathered in the citadel and that all communication devices in the bridge had been destroyed.

The vessel was reported adrift during the raid.

Suspicious boat spotted

A crew of 19 is said to be aboard, comprising eight Ukrainians and 11 Filipinos.

A handysize tanker had observed a suspicious craft within 19 nautical miles of the incident at around the time the bulker switched off AIS.

This boat had been fully lit and then blacked out all lighting, increasing speed from 3.7 to 10.5 knots.

Security company Africa Risk Compliance (ARC) said there is now an increased threat to shipping in the region, centred around the Nigerian exclusive economic zone south of Lagos.

“It is likely this is based on the pirate group which carried out the attack on a bulk carrier moving back towards the Niger Delta,” ARC added.