AFP – Pirates have hijacked a Singapore-owned oil tanker in the Nigerian port of Lagos — the third attack in just over two weeks in the Gulf of Guinea, the International Maritime Bureau said Wednesday.
The vessel, which had 23 crew on board, was laden with fuel, the bureau’s Kuala Lumpur-based piracy reporting centre said, adding that the pirates were sailing the ship into the open sea.
It did not say how the pirates hijacked the tanker on Tuesday evening.
“We have informed the Nigerian authorities who are taking action,” Noel Choong, head of the IMB’s Malaysia-based piracy reporting centre told AFP.
The crew members had locked themselves in a safe room, said Choong, who added: “We are concerned about their safety and the spate of hijackings,” he said.
Pirates hijacked and looted two oil tankers off nearby Togo last month. The two ships and all crew members were later freed.
Choong said the same criminal syndicate could be behind the latest attack since the modus operandi was the same.
“The would seize the ship for about five days — ransack the crew’s cabin and syphon the oil to another pirate vessel,” he said.
The IMB has repeatedly warned ships plying the Gulf of Guinea off the west coast of Africa to be vigilant and called on authorities to step up patrols, saying last year the region was emerging as a new piracy “hot spot”.
The area has seen 37 attacks, including several hijackings, kidnappings and killings, so far this year. Pirates usually target cargo, loading it onto other ships to sell on the black market.
Nigeria and nearby Benin launched joint patrols last year in a bid to combat the problem.