Navy rescues 13 foreigners from pirates in Rivers

Special Forces of the Nigerian Navy on Friday rescued 13 foreign nationals, aboard a merchant ship that was attached by suspected sea pirates, off the coast of Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.

The merchant ship (MT Vectis Osprey) registered in Britain, came into Nigeria from Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, on August 10, 2016, transporting general cargo, and was leaving Nigeria for Cameroun when the gunmen attempted to hijack it and abduct the foreigners.

It was gathered that the ship after discharging her cargo, set sail for Douala, Cameroon, on August 17, 2016, but was attacked by nine heavily-armed sea pirates who boarded the vessel with intent to taking the 13 crew members hostage.

Briefing newsmen yesterday at Bonny, Rivers State, leader of the Special Forces and Commanding Officer of Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Nwamba, Captain Mustapha Hassan, said the crew were rescued unharmed.

Hassan stated that the crew members, including the ship’s captain, were of mixed nationalities consisting of seven Philippines, two Romanians, one Russian, one Polish, one Indian, and one Croatian.

He said, “On Aug. 17; MT Vectis Osprey, a British ship was attacked by sea pirates about 20 nautical miles off the coast of Bonny Island Fairway Bouy in Rivers. We got a distress alert from the operations centre at the naval headquarters which dispatched Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Nwamba with Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Okpabana to shadow the operation.

“On getting the may-day distress call, we immediately set course to intercept and rescue the merchant ship from hijack by sea pirates. On arrival, Special Forces attacked the nine heavily armed pirates who jumped into the sea and escaped apparently due to superior gunfire and tactical awareness of troops.

“The operation was largely successful as all 13 foreign crew members, including the captain, are safe and unhurt, while cargo onboard the ship is intact.”

The commanding officer said the troops were unable to apprehend the pirates due to poor visibility partly caused by torrential rainstorm which fell on day of the rescue.

Hassan assured the navy under the command of Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Adm. Ibok-Ete Ibas remained fully committed to safety of the nation’s waterways and maritime environment.

He stated that the rescue was successful due to ongoing operation code-named “Tsare Teku II” which sought to tackle oil theft, illegal bunkering and pirate attacks on the nation’s waterways.

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