No contact with crew of tanker seized off Nigeria—firm
LAGOS—The operator of an oil tanker hijacked off the coast of Nigeria last weekend has had no contact with the more than 20 crew since the capture, an official of the company said on Friday.
The Malta-flagged Halifax had 23 or 24 crew members — all Filipinos apart from one Bulgarian — on board, an official of Ancora Investment Trust told Agence France-Presse by telephone from the Greek capital Athens.
“We’ve lost contact and hence we realized something might have happened,” said the official, who chose not to be named.
Global piracy watchdog the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has said the vessel was captured on October 30, but the date could not be confirmed by the company official.
“Unless we manage to talk to the master, we cannot say exactly when or where (the tanker was seized),” she said. What the company knows is that the vessel went missing “off Nigeria but the exact position we don’t know”.
The operator has also not had any contact with the pirates.
The coast of Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, has long been a dangerous place to sail, and in recent months the risk has extended to the coast of the small neighboring nation of Benin.
Benin’s coast has seen at least 20 piracy incidents this year compared to none in 2010. Nigeria and Benin in September launched joint sea patrols to tackle the piracy surge.
The IMB has warned that the spate of attacks off West Africa indicates the region could emerge as a new piracy “hotspot”.
Unlike the explosion of piracy off the coast of Somalia on the eastern side of the continent in recent years for ransom, attackers in West Africa have so far not appeared to be after ransom payments, but interested in the cargo being transported.
Fuel or oil cargo has been stolen for sale on the region’s lucrative black market, while robberies have also occurred.