In the latest in a string of such attacks, pirates off Nigeria’s oil-rich south have stormed a small oil tanker, kidnapping six sailors, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said on Thursday. The Apecus, a Palau-flagged petroleum products tanker of 3,100 deadweight tons, was attacked while the vessel was anchored off Bonny Island, south of the oil hub of Port Harcourt, according to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre. Pirates normally seize sailors for ransom.
“An anchored tanker was boarded by unauthorized persons who kidnapped six crew and escaped,” the piracy watchdog said, adding the rest of the crew was reported to be safe. No details of their nationalities were given. “The Nigerian Navy was notified and an investigation into the incident has been launched,” the IMB added. The Navy was not immediately available for comment.
Nigerian pirates recently hijacked another merchant ship, robbing the vessel’s crew. The unidentified ship was freed in the Gulf of Guinea by a Spanish warship on April 9 after four days. Days later, on April 15, four armed men boarded another anchored oil tanker, also in the Bonny River area, but Nigerian naval guards onboard fought the pirates off.
Nigeria has been a hotspot for piracy incidents over the past decade. The country reported 14 pirate attacks for the first quarter of 2019, compared to 22 in the same period in 2018. A report by IMB early this month attributed the decline to the navy’s increased efforts to “actively respond to reported incidents by dispatching patrol boats.”