Nigeria: Hijacked oil tanker freed

2011-11-06 11:06

Lagos - A Malta-flagged oil tanker hijacked off the coast of Nigeria last weekend has been freed along with its crew, but with some of its cargo stolen, Nigeria's maritime agency said on Saturday.

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) said the Halifax was located by the country's navy on Saturday morning off the waters of the southern oil hub of the Niger Delta.

"All crew [are] safe and accounted for. Part of the cargo [was] siphoned," NIMASA spokesperson Lami Tumaka told AFP.

"The vessel is presently being escorted to Port Harcourt harbour," she said.

The ship had 23 or 24 crew members - all Filipinos apart from one Bulgarian - on board, an official of Ancora Investment Trust, the operators said this week the Greek capital Athens.

Dangerous place

Global piracy watchdog the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said the vessel was captured on October 30.

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 neighbouring 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.

The theft of such cargo tends to be relatively sophisticated, with tankers often being directed to another pirate-controlled ship, where the fuel is transferred and then taken elsewhere for sale.

The stolen fuel or oil cargo gets sold on the region's lucrative black market. Robberies have also occurred on hijacked vessels.

- SAPA
Read more on:    nigeria  |  west africa  |  pirates
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