An SK Shipping tanker has been confirmed as the victim of a hijacking for the second time this year in the Gulf of Guinea.

Piracy reporting body Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade Gulf of Guinea (MDAT GoG) had said communication had been lost with the 5,700-dwt B Ocean (built 2010) on Wednesday night, but its fate was unclear.

Security company Ambrey said on Friday: "It was subsequently confirmed that pirates had boarded the vessel, cut communications, and had stolen cargo."

The crew was reported to be safe.

Another security company, Africa Risk Compliance (ARC), said the vessel was released on Friday morning.

The gunmen destroyed navigational and communications equipment.

The crew reached the citadel and alerted authorities.

An Italian navy ship has established contact with the master and was underway to provide assistance.

MDAT GoG, a joint operation between the British and French navies, asked for masters in the area to report any sighting of the vessel, or any suspicious activity.

ARC said contact was lost at 23:00 hours, 240 nautical miles (445 km) off Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in international waters.

“Last activity of vessel was drifting in area for approximately 24 hours,” ARC said.

The company added that eight armed men boarded the tanker, whose position is still unknown.

ARC reported a wave height of 1.2 metres and a gentle breeze in the area.

The 105-metre Chinese-built vessel has protection and indemnity cover with Skuld in Norway and has been owned by SK Shipping since 2012.

The company was not immediately available for further information, but has been contacted by email.

AIS data shows the vessel left Abidjan on 1 October, bound for the “high sea”.

The Marshall Islands-flag tanker has been out of range since 12 November, according to Marine Traffic.

The ship also suffered the last reported hijacking off West Africa, when pirates boarded off Abidjan in January, again stealing the cargo.

No damage was reported to the ship in that attack.

The incident was the first in the wider West African region for nearly a year.

Piracy threat has receded

Global piracy has hit a 30-year low, while the Gulf of Guinea has cooled down, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said in October.

In its quarterly report, the bureau counted 90 incidents worldwide in the first nine months of 2022 — the lowest total since 1992, it said.

The number of incidents in the Gulf of Guinea — once considered the world’s piracy hotspot — fell to 13, versus 27 last year.

“Though these are amongst the lowest reports in decades, violence to crew continues, with 27 crew taken hostage, six assaulted and five threatened,” it said. “The risk to the crew, however petty or opportunistic the incident, remains real.”

In the Gulf of Guinea, the IMB recorded 41 incidents of actual or attempted piracy in Nigerian waters in the first nine months of 2018, with five in neighbouring Benin and eight in nearby Ghana.

By 2022, those figures had fallen to zero in Nigeria and Benin and six in Ghana.