Angola says Greek oil tanker faked hijacking

2014-01-26 20:36
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Luanda - A Greek oil tanker that disappeared off the coast of Angola last week faked its hijacking and has been located in Nigerian waters, the Angolan navy said on Sunday.

The Liberian-flagged oil tanker MT Kerala had just loaded a shipment of diesel belonging to a subsidiary of Angola's state oil company Sonangol, when it went off the radar on 18 January.

Its owners Athens-based Dynacom Tankers Management said earlier last week they suspected "pirates had taken control" of the vessel, which was carrying a crew of 27 Indians and Filipinos.

However Augusto Alfredo, spokesperson for the Angolan navy, told AFP on Sunday "there has not been a hijacking of the vessel, but a faked hijacking".

Alfredo said the tanker had been at the entrance to the Luanda bay last Saturday when it was approached by a tugboat.

"It then cut off its communication system and followed the tugboat to Nigeria," said the spokesperson.

"Sonangol and the Angolan state will now work to recover the cargo and establish exactly what happened."

Sonangol has chartered MT Kerala since 2009 and its contract was due to end on 12 February.

Angolan experts such as maritime security agency Dryad Maritime, feared the hijacking, if confirmed, would signal a spread of piracy from the Gulf of Guinea.

Despite emerging from a devastating civil war in 2002, Angola is one of the Africa's fastest developing economies, thanks to its oil resources.

It is the second largest oil producer in Africa after Nigeria, where crude oil theft is a problem, but has so far been spared the piracy woes dogging the west African oil giant.

The Angolan navy spokesperson insisted "there is no piracy in Angolan waters".

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