Nigeria's navy says it has rescued a Singapore-owned oil tanker hijacked by pirates on Tuesday night with 23 Indian sailors on board.
A navy spokesman told the BBC the crew was safe, the hijackers had fled and the vessel, the Abu Dhabi Star, was being escorted into the port of Lagos.
Navy spokesman Commodore Kabir Aliyu said no shots were fired before the hijackers abandoned the Abu Dhabi Star.
Earlier the navy had sent two ships and a helicopter to the scene.
"We want to commend the superb effort of the Nigerian navy in securing the safe release of the Abu Dhabi Star. There were no casualties and the cargo is intact," Pottengal Mukundan, the director of the International Maritime Bureau, told the BBC.
"It is very important that the Nigerian authorities apprehend, investigate and try those who carried out the attack," he said.
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said in a statement that armed pirates boarded the vessel Tuesday night, attacking the crew members.The pattern in these gasoline product tanker hijackings has been for the cargo to be stolen (transferred to another vessel or vessels) and the ship released with the crew relatively unharmed. UPDATE: Martin Murphy has a good post on Gulf of Guinea piracy at The Most Lucrative Piracy in the World.
The pirates forced the ship to sail into the open sea, the IMB added.
Harrison said the tanker was coming from Bonny port town and was heading to the US.
According to him, the company has since received contact from the crew onboard the vessel and can confirm that all crew members are currently safe and uninjured, but that the vessel has been boarded by suspected pirates.
Past patterns, however, do not guarantee future results.
UPDATE: More here:
|© Gena Anfimov|
A spokesman for the firm that manages the hijacked Abu Dhabi Star said the vessel's location at the time of the Tuesday evening attack had not yet been established.
"We only got one message from the seafarers on board saying that they were being boarded.... We don't actually know the exact location of where she was hijacked," said Pat Adamson of Maritime Technical International.
Adamson said the vessel could have been carrying up to 45,000 tons of gasoline at the time of the attack.
A tracking device placed the tanker 31.4 nautical miles (60 kilometres, 35 miles) away from the Lagos port at roughly 1100 GMT on Wednesday, Nigeria's navy spokesman, Commodore Kabir Aliyu, said.
A security analyst said such attacks near Lagos and other ports in the region are becoming a worsening problem.
"Over the last few months we've seen an increasing number of incidents," said Peter Sharwood-Smith, west African regional manager for risk management consultancy Drum Cussac.
"For the last year and a bit we've been seeing high-level piracy off of Lagos, where they've been targeting tankers to steal their fuel oil cargo," he added.
Pirates hijacked and looted two oil tankers off nearby Togo last month. The two ships and all crew members were later freed.
The IMB's Choong said the same criminal syndicate could be behind the latest attack since the modus operandi was the same.
"They would seize the ship for about five days -- ransack the crew's cabin and syphon the oil to another pirate vessel," he said.