Piracy edges closer to home with wave of raids in southern Gulf
Professional Mariner|December - January2021
In the brief cellphone video recorded by a crewmember on the offshore supply vessel (OSV) Remas, the pirates walk back and forth on the deck of the ship, clenching their guns and using them to point as they order around the crew. Their faces are draped in clothing and bandanas.
Nick Keppler

On April 9, the Italian-flagged OSV, owned by the multinational oil and gas contractor Micoperi, was in the southern Gulf of Mexico when a boat approached quickly. Someone in the pirate vessel fired a warning shot and eight masked men jumped on board Remas. They took the 30-member crew captive and ransacked the ship, stealing crewmembers’ personal items and some industrial equipment before fleeing. No one was injured — this time.

Remas had endured two prior pirate attacks in the Gulf, one less than a week earlier, which played out much the same way. In November 2019, two boats of armed men rushed the ship, maneuvered to the side, and leaped on board. One crewman on Remas suffered a bullet wound and another a concussion tussling with the bandits.

Incidents of piracy are increasing in the Gulf of Mexico, which had been considered relatively safe compared to hot spots like Southeast Asia and Somalia. But as oil and natural gas extraction boosted shipping activity in the Gulf, pirates have increasingly targeted vessels. The growth in piracy is centered in the southern region, prompting advisories from the U.S. Transportation Department and State Department and an increased presence by SEMAR, Mexico’s navy.

More than 200 raids have occurred outside of territorial waters in the Gulf since 2016, said Enrique Lozano, the Gulf of Mexico inspector for the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF). From January 2018 to June 2020, U.S. naval officials counted attacks on 20 vessels and 35 oil platforms in the Bay of Campeche. Thus far, no U.S.-flagged vessels have been attacked in this spree, which seemed to reach a peak in April.

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