Suspected pirates kidnap 5 sailors off Nigeria
… As JTF impounds vessels, arrest hordes of suspected oil thieves in Niger Delta
The Antigua and Barbuda-flagged dry cargo carrier was attacked last Friday, 100 miles south-west of Nigeria’s Bonny Island, according to Sunship Schiffahrtskontor KG in a statement published on its website.
The firm explained that the kidnapped crew members include Polish and Russian citizens.
The City of Xiamen, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), was allegedly attacked by 14 heavily-armed pirates, who breached her citadel – a strong room designed to protect the crew from attack.
The IMB stated in a piracy report that the pirates took five crew captive before escaping with cash taken from the ship and the crew.
The attack on the City of Xiamen is the second recorded last week, after the Liberian-flagged Hansa Marburg was boarded by pirates penultimate Monday and four crew members were taken hostage.
The IMB explained that pirates in a speed boat off Nigeria chased and fired upon another container ship last Wednesday, but that the vessel increased speed and escaped.
The waters around Nigeria and in the wider Gulf of Guinea in West Africa are seen as an increasingly dangerous hotspot for piracy, pushing up insurance costs.
There have been 10 such incidents off the coast of West Africa so far this year, according to the IMB’s piracy reporting centre.
West Africa is an important source of oil, cocoa and metals for world markets, but international navies are not engaged in counter-piracy missions at present.
Many vessels are forced to anchor off Nigeria with little protection, making them a soft target for criminals. Naval patrols and the presence of armed guards aboard merchant vessels have helped reduce piracy off Somalia on Africa’s eastern coast.
Meanwhile, the Joint Task Force (JTF) on security in the Niger Delta on Sunday announced that it arrested 76 suspected oil thieves, seizing a merchant tanker vessel and a barge alegedly used for bunkering within a 13-day period.
The spokesperson of the JTF, Lt.-Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, said in a statement that the arrest and seizures were made between April 15 and April 27, 2013.
The MT Shandy with 12 crew members, according to Nwachukwu, was intercepted in Otokomabie Creek near Oloma Community in Rivers State.
He said that eight of the 12 crew members arrested were currently being interrogated in Port-Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, while the other four crew members were left behind to man the vessel in Bonny Island.
He said that the JTF had also impounded a barge allegedly found at an illegal oil loading point close to Burma Rice Farm between Brass and Obiama waterways in Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
Nwachukwu said that the barge was allegedly arrested with 50,000 litres of suspected stolen crude oil, noting that the barge had been towed to a terminal for investigation.
The task force, according to him, also intercepted and destroyed 61 boats, allegedly conveying suspected stolen petroleum products in some parts of Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State.