No fewer than 19 seafarers working as crew members of a tanker vessel have been kidnapped by suspected sea pirates off Bonny Island.
The seafarers were abducted in a tanker identified as Nave Constellation, about 100 nautical miles off Bonny Island.
A statement made available to The Tide by Dryad Global said the attack occurred 26nm South East of the Egina terminal while the ship was underway on Tuesday.
Eighteen of the crew members abducted were Indian nationals, one is a Turkish, while seven other crew members are still on board the tanker, the statement said.
Navios, which is the owner of the ship and Anglo-Eastern Tanker Management (Hong Kong), which is the vessel’s technical manager, have both confirmed the incident.
The Hong Kong-flagged crude oil tanker had departed Bonny Offshore Terminal in fully laden condition when it was boarded by armed men late on the night of December 3rd.
“The criminal gang departed the vessel taking 19 of those onboard with them as hostage; 18 Indian nationals and one Turkish national. Seven seafarers remained on board and were instructed to take the tanker to a safe position to await the arrival of a security vessel and other support craft. There was no pollution or damage to the vessel.
“Navios as owners and Anglo Eastern as technical and crew managers’s prime concern is the safety and early return of the 19 persons taken by the pirate gang. All the appropriate authorities, including the Flag State, have been alerted and are responding and all the necessary action is being taken to secure their wellbeing and early release,” the two companies said in a statement.
The companies said the families of those taken by the pirates are being kept fully informed of the developing situation.
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB), Piracy Reporting Centre, has also confirmed the attack on the tanker.
“Nineteen crew were identified as missing. The vessel owners notified the Nigerian Navy and MRCC for assistance.
Remaining crew sailed a tanker to a safe area,” the IMB said.
This is the 6th maritime security incident and the fourth kidnapping incident to occur within 30nm of the South Eastern boundary of the Nigerian EEZ within 2019.
Navy Nabs Six Rice Smugglers In A’Ibom
The Nigerian Navy Command has arrested six suspected rice smugglers in Akwa Ibom State.
The Navy Forward Operating Base (FOB) also impounded 1,439 bags of smuggled rice between December 2019 and January 2020.
This was made known by the Commanding Officer, Forward Operating Base, in Ibaka, Mbo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, Peter Yilme, in a statement last Wednesday.
Yilme said the suspects and the items impounded had been handed over to the Nigeria Customs Service in Mbo Local Government Area of the State.
The commanding officer, however, said some of the suspects escaped on sighting the Navy gunboats.
He said the command would remain steadfast in fighting illegalities on the waterways in line with the directives of the Chief of Naval Staff, Ibok Ibas.
Yilme said the arrests were made along the Unyenge, Effiat, and Mendoro creeks between December 2019 and January by Navy officers and men on routine patrol in their gunboats.
“I handed over 1,439 bags of rice and six suspects to the Superintendent of Customs, Garuba Hassan, in line with the directives of the Chief of Naval Staff.
“We are committed to rid the waterways of all forms of illegalities.
“I commend the untiring efforts of the officers and ratings in ensuring the mandate and tasks of the Base are achieved.
“I also appreciate the immense efforts of the Chief of Naval Staff, for providing the necessary platform and logistics support for the Base to carry out its operations,” Yilme said.
Confessing to the crime, a suspect from Bayelsa, Wede John, said that he usually transported fish and was carrying rice for the first time when he was arrested.
“I don’t know the owner of the rice and didn’t know that rice was loaded into the boat. This is my first time of carrying rice.
“I usually transport crayfish and dry fish to Oron Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom. I was carrying rice from Bakassi to Unyenge when I was arrested,” he said.
Also speaking, a suspect and boat driver, Awagoyi Philip, said the owner of the rice promised to pay him N20,000 for carrying the rice but that he was yet to collect the money.
“I drive boats and I was paid to drive the boat that carried the rice. This is my first time. The owner of the rice promised to pay me N 20,000 and is aware that I have been arrested”, he said.
Reps Plan Security Summits On Ports
The House of Representatives Committee on Ports and Harbours says it will soon organise a nationwide security summit to tackle acts of insecurity in the nation’s ports.
The committee also decried the spate of piracy in the nation’s waterways and abduction of crew members of vessels coming to Eastern ports.
Chairman, House of Reps Committee on Ports and Harbours, Hon Datti Garba Muhammad, disclosed this to The Tide during an interview in Port Harcourt shortly after a visit to the Rivers Port Complex.
Muhammad said the summit would focus on the best possible ways to tackle insecurity in the nation’s waterways and reduce abduction of crew members in the ports.
Although the chairman did not say when the summit would take place, he condemned the act of piracy in the industry, saying the act had scared away some foreign investors, vessel owners and lowered the revenue accrued to the Federal Government.
He insisted that the committee wanted the Rivers Port Complex to revamp for more maritime activities and attract investors to the sector.
The chairman commended the management of the port, saying the port is now safer to do business as the issue of pirate attacks on vessels is now a thing of the past in the complex.
According to him, the safety and the working environment in the port complex will generate more revenue to the government.
“Rivers Port is safer for investors to patronise; no reports of attacks on sea vessels going to the complex for over six months now”, he said.
Describing Rivers Port Complex as à colonial port, Muhammad said the committee would want the complex to be competitive, attract investors and yield more revenue to the government.
Stories by Chinedu Wosu
Piracy: Seafarer Wants FG To Equip Navy, Marine Police
A Port Harcourt based seafarer, Onmonya Udeh, has appealed to the Federal Government to equip the Nigerian Navy and the Marine Police to tackle piracy in the nation’s waterways.
Udeh lamented that pirates were armed with more sophisticated weapons than the Navy and the Marine police, thereby posing serious threats to the lives of mariners and passengers.
Udeh spoke to The Tide yesterday in Port Harcourt during a telephone interview on issues bothering maritime industry.
The mariner said over 121 crew members were kidnapped in 2019 across the Gulf of Guinea by suspected sea pirates.
He called on the Navy and Marine Police to ensure regular patrol of the creeks, channels and all the waterways in the region to protect lives and property.
The seafarer appealed to the government to equip Navy with adequate gunpower to confront the sea robbers that are posing threats to the creeks and waterways in the region.
He said marine companies were scared to operate in the region due to the negative attitude of the criminals who terrorized the waterways.
Udeh said the attack and abduction of vessel owners and marine companies had created unemployment and even forced companies to relocate to a safer environments such as Lagos and neighbouring countries.
The mariner admonished the youth to shun acts inimical to the socio-economic growth of the region, but embrace positive life style that would encourage industrialization.
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