Published September 5, 2012 | 1:12 pm
Lagos/Singapore: Twenty-three Indian sailors on board an oil tanker hijacked by pirates off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub, have been rescued by the Nigerian security forces, the authorities and the shipping company said Wednesday.
Pat Adamson, spokesperson for the Dubai-based Pioneer Ship Management Services LLC, told Xinhua on phone that all the crew on the fully loaded gasoline tanker were Indian nationals.
Singapore’s Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) said late Wednesday that the Singapore-registered oil tanker that had reportedly been hijacked near Nigerian waters was now safe, said a Xinhua report from Singapore.
“The company has informed the MPA that the vessel and crew are now safe,” it said in a statement.
“The vessel’s crew, together with Nigerian security forces, will be conducting a vessel security check and the vessel will be proceeding on her voyage after obtaining clearance from the authority,” said the MPA.
Adamson earlier said the company lost contact with the crew after they sent distress signals even as the pirates boarded the ship in the night, with their last message indicating they had locked themselves inside a panic room on the vessel.
There was confusion about the exact timing of the hijacking with the company saying the incident took place early Wednesday while maritime authorities said the hijacking took place Tuesday night.
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said in a statement that armed pirates boarded the vessel Tuesday night, attacking the crew members.
The pirates forced the ship to sail into the open sea, the IMB added.
Harrison said the tanker was coming from Bonny port town and was heading to the US.
According to him, the company has since received contact from the crew onboard the vessel and can confirm that all crew members are currently safe and uninjured, but that the vessel has been boarded by suspected pirates.
He said no contact has been made with those believed to be holding the vessel and that no demands have been received by Pioneer Ship management.
“Pioneer is taking the matter extremely seriously and its primary concern is for the well-being and safe return of its crew members,” he added.
The spokesperson said that all relevant authorities have been notified and that the company is working closely with the International Maritime Bureau and local authorities.
The frequent attacks on ships by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea pose an increasing threat to the trade hub.