JOHANNESBURG — Pirates boarded a Greek-owned oil tanker off Nigeria Dec. 3 and kidnapped 18 Indians and one Turkish crew members in what has become the world’s most dangerous waters for such attacks.
A Dec. 4 statement by the owner and Hong Kong-based managers said the Nave Constellation ship was boarded late Dec. 3 by armed men after it departed the Bonny Offshore Terminal in “fully laden condition.”
All but one of the crew members taken hostage are Indian nationals, the statement by owner Navios and Anglo-Eastern Tanker Management said.
Seven crew members remained on board and were told to take the ship to a safer position, the statement said.
Reuters reports that the vessel was carrying crude for Indian refiner Hindustan Petroleum Corp. The vessel was chartered by French oil company Total to deliver Bonny Light oil at Vizag in southern India.
“All appropriate authorities” have been alerted, and “all the necessary action is being taken to secure their well-being and early release,” said the statement. The families have been informed, it said.
The ship was not damaged, the statement said.
The International Maritime Bureau says the Gulf of Guinea now accounts for about 82 percent of crew kidnappings in the world, and Nigeria has reported more attacks than any other country.
“Recently, there has been a noticeable increase in attacks/hijackings/kidnapping of crews off these areas,” the bureau’s guidance says of Nigeria’s oil-rich coast. The pirates, often well-armed and violent, in many instances have seized ships for many days, ransacking them for fuel.
“Generally, all waters in/off Nigeria remain risky,” the guidance says, noting that many attacks may have gone unreported in waters busy with traffic serving one of Africa’s largest oil producers.
Earlier this year the United States and 33 other countries carried out weeks of maritime training in the Gulf of Guinea to improve safety against pirates and better monitor the coastline.
Attendees noted the need for better infrastructure, funding and coordination in a region where multiple languages including English, French, Spanish and Portuguese are spoken.