China on alert as four fishermen kidnapped from Gabon-based fleet
Chinese authorities have encouraged fishery firms active in Gabon’s waters to dial into an emergency hotline as the hunt continues for four kidnapped Chinese fishermen.
Pirates boarded and four vessels owned by Sigapeche (formally known as Société Sino-Gabonaise de Pêche) on Saturday, 21 December. They killed one freighter master and took four Chinese nationals hostage, according to Maritime Executive. The four captives were aboard a Chinese trawler awaiting a license to fish in Gabonese waters, according to the Gabon Review.
A hotline at the Chinese embassy in Libreville will be manned by staff to advise Chinese fishing companies worried about safety, according to Hu Changchun, Chinese ambassador to Gabon who is serving as China’s liaison with its fisheries companies operating in the region.
Gabon faces the Gulf of Guinea, which has been the site of the majority of recent global incidents of maritime crew kidnapping.
Sigapeche and CNFC Overseas Fishery Co. are two of several Chinese firms with bases in Gabon’s capital. China’s ties with Gabon go back to the early days of China’s entry into distant-water operations. A protocol signed by the two sides in 1986 was followed with the construction of a fishing port in Libreville. A follow up protocol in 2004 envisioned cooperation in aquaculture and processing as well as “knowledge transfer” from China to Gabon.
The relationship appears to have soured somewhat in recent years, with Gabon cooperating with NGOs to track and apprehend Chinese vessels suspected of fishing illegally in Gabonese waters. Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba has vowed to protect his country’s waters through the establishment of protected marine conservation zones.
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