A Greek-owned oil tanker with 24 crew members on board was hijacked by pirates off the coast of Togo in a sign that pirate attacks are increasing in the region, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
Pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia and in the Indian Ocean have been on the downswing in recent years, but data shows that attacks have been increasing off of West Africa in the Gulf of Guinea.
West African pirates usually steal the cargo and transfer it to another tanker, while freeing the crew members, which is different than Somalia-based pirates, according to the BBC. Somali pirates usually demand a ransom for the ships and crew, holding both for months until payment is delivered.
Noel Choong, the head of the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy center, told the news agency that “normally in this area they will hold the ship for four or five days, ransack it and steal part of the cargo, usually gas oil.”
Choong said the attackers exchanged gunfire with the Togo navy but evaded capture.
The hijackers may have been from the same piracy syndicate that hijacked a U.K.-flagged vessel on August 19. The vessel and 18 people on board were released last Thursday near Nigeria.
In this year, there has been 36 attacks, including killings, kidnappings, and hijackings in the Gulf of Guinea, representing a sharp increase over the year prior.