Pirate attacks off Nigeria coast is on the rise.
Pirates armed with guns boarded an offshore tug supply vessel and kidnapped four crew members Sunday night off Nigeria’s coast.
The attack happened 40 nautical miles off the coast of Bayelsa State in the Niger Delta, the International Maritime Bureau said on Monday. The gunmen seized four workers and fled while remaining sailors guided the ship to a safe port, the bureau said.
There were “no injuries to crew members.”
The Bureau did not identify the shipper or the sailors; but The Associated Press – quoting a notice to private security contractors working in Nigeria and sources in the Italian Foreign Ministry – identified three of the hostages as Italians. The nationality of the fourth hostage is unknown, the news agency reported.
The AP also identified the attacked vessel as the Asso Ventuno, operated by Augusta Offshore SpA, a Naples-based shipping company. Pirate activity around the Nigerian coastline has surged recently. Between August and December, at least five hijackings have been reported along Nigeria’s coastline.
The Sunday attack is the second this month.
On December 17, gunmen kidnapped five Indian sailors on the SP Brussels tanker as it sat about 40 miles (64 kilometers) off the coast of the Niger Delta. In all incidents, the oil was siphoned into other containers before the vessels and crew were released.
SP Brussels was “looted” according to Medallion Marine. The Indian sailors are yet to be released.
Piracy offshore of Nigeria and other countries in West Africa’s oil-rich Gulf of Guinea is on the increase, and the region is tailing the sea way off Somalia in terms of the risk of pirate attacks. This in turn drives up shipping insurance costs.
The International Maritime Bureau, a branch of the International Chamber of Commerce funded by ship owners, has categorised the Gulf of Guinea, which includes the waters off Benin, Nigeria and Togo as an emerging piracy hub.
Police confirm abduction
Meanwhile, the Bayelsa State Police Command has confirmed the abduction of the four expatriate oil workers.
The Command’s spokesperson, Fidelis Odonna, said in Yenagoa on Monday that the police had received information about the abduction of the expatriates.
He said that the identities and nationality of the oil workers had not been ascertained, adding that no group had claimed responsibility for the abduction and that no demand for ransom had been made.
“We have received report on the abduction of the four expatriate oil workers off the coast of the state in the early hours of Sunday, December 23.
“As we speak, details of the incident are still sketchy. However, the command has commenced investigation as we have sent out a team to get to the matter,’’ he said.
Mr. Odonna assured that details of the kidnapping would be made available to the media when the command received it.
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