Pirates kidnap 19 crew members, including 18 Indians

Agencies –  December 05, 2019

ATHENS: Pirates have kidnapped 19 crew members from a crude oil tanker off Nigeria, an official with the ship’s operator said on Thursday, in another sign of worsening piracy in the region.

The loaded vessel, the Nave Constellation, was attacked 77 nautical miles off Bonny island late on Dec. 3 and the crew – 18 Indians and one Turk – were seized, the official said.

Another seven crew members remain on board the vessel. Neither the vessel nor the cargo were damaged, the official said.

The shipping industry has warned in recent months about the increasing dangers faced by seafarers sailing through the Gulf of Guinea region, particularly around Nigeria, with a greater focus on kidnappings by pirate gangs.

The International Maritime Bureau watchdog said in October the Gulf of Guinea accounted for more than four fifths of crew kidnappings globally.

Maritime security officials say over the past year there has been a growing shift by pirate gangs in the Gulf of Guinea and especially Nigeria towards kidnapping crews rather than stealing cargoes, aiming to extract ransom from ship owners for crews being held and subjected to violence.

The Hong Kong-flagged supertanker, capable of carrying up to 2 million barrels of oil, is operated by Greek shipping company Navios Tankers Management.

“We are doing everything necessary to make sure that the 19 crew members will return safe,” the official at Navios said, adding that their families have been informed.

An Indian government source said its mission in Nigeria had taken up the matter of the kidnappings of with the Nigerian government and security agencies.

The vessel was carrying crude for Indian refiner Hindustan Petroleum Corp (HPCL.NS), a source at the company said.

Nigerian Navy commander Kolawole Oguntuga said the vessel, which loaded Shell Bonny Light, was hijacked soon after leaving the terminal adding that the ship did not request a navy escort to provide them with adequate protection.

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