The ICC International Maritime Bureau has reported that a product tanker was recently boarded by armed attackers at anchorage off Lagos.
The vessel was hijacked after twelve persons in military fatigues approached the vessel aboard what appeared to be a military launch. Nine of those boarded the vessel and attempted to coerce the tanker’s Master on to the launch. The Captain refused and managed to escape. As he fled towards the accommodation, the hijackers opened fire on him. Fortunately, he managed to get into the accommodation block unhurt and proceeded to the bridge and initiated security alert procedures.
The attackers managed to take three crewmembers hostage, whose ordeal ended when their release was secured with a ransom of cash and cigarettes. Whilst in custody of the hijackers, it was made clear to the hostages that the attack was specifically targeted at the vessel and was not opportunist.
During several hours of looting, the robbers made further grave threats to crew members demanding substantial sums of money. These threats were repeated the following day, after the attackers had departed, in a telephone call to the master. A further attack was threatened at the vessel’s next port of call, Port Harcourt.
“This is a totally unacceptable situation,” said Captain Pottengal Mukundan, Director of the ICC International Maritime Bureau which runs the Piracy Reporting Centre. “Nigeria has one of the best armed forces in the region, widely deployed in peacekeeping missions in Africa. We call upon the Nigerian Navy to investigate this incident and punish those responsible. It is a disgrace that persons wearing military uniform, normally trusted by Ship’s Masters, should get away with such criminal acts.”
The IMB recommends that all vessels calling at Nigeria facing similar problems should inform the IMB so that a more complete picture of these abuses can be passed on to the authorities for their action.
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