ABIDJAN: Suspected Nigerian pirates have hijacked a French-owned Luxembourg-flagged tanker along with its 17-member crew off Ivory Coast, Ivorian officials and the International Maritime Bureau said yesterday.
The Gulf of Guinea area is second only to the waters off Somalia for piracy and there has been a spate of violent attacks in vessels in recent days. The Gascogne was the second vessel to be seized off Ivory Coast in less than three weeks and the first to have been taken so far from shore.
Many of the pirate gangs are offshoots of militant groups that once operated in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta and mainly target ships carrying refined petroleum products that are easily sold on the local black market. Ivory Coast authorities said the Gascogne had been chartered by South Korean petroleum transporter SK Shipping. It had taken on 3,000 tonnes of diesel fuel in Abidjan on January 30 but had already off loaded a portion of its cargo when it was seized on Sunday.
The 17-strong crew comprised seven Togolese, two Senegalese, two Ivorians, one South Korean, one Chinese and four sailors from Benin.