LAGOS - Pirates have hijacked
a Singapore-owned oil tanker in Nigerian waters, the third attack in just over
two weeks in the Gulf of Guinea, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said
The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said it is
working with the owners and managers of the tanker to ascertain the facts and
confirm the status of the vessel and crew.
The IMB said the tanker was
seized within the port of Lagos, but Nigerian authorities insisted the attack
happened farther offshore.
The vessel, which had 23 crew on board, was
laden with fuel, IMB'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."
spokesman, Commodore Kabir Aliyu, identified the tanker as the Abu Dhabi
"The vessel was hijacked last night off the coast of Nigeria. We
are trying to get the details of the seizure but everything is being done to
ensure the safety of the crew," he told AFP.
A tracking device placed the
tanker 31.4 nautical miles (60 kilometres, 35 miles) away from the Lagos port at
roughly 1100GMT on Wednesday and the navy had launched an operation to reclaim
the vessel, Aliyu said, declining to give further details.
Ports Authority (NPA) denied that the vessel had been hijacked within the Lagos
"There has been no hijacking of vessels in the Lagos ports.
In fact, it cannot happen and it has never happened. If there was any seizure it
would be on the high sea," NPA spokesman Michael Ajayi told AFP.
have previously been attacked while moored near the port as they wait to
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.
"They 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
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.
Cyrus Mody of
IMB, who closely tracks the region, said pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea
have long gone under-reported and that the area had likely seen more violence
than recent figures suggest.
As a result, some companies working in the
region may not have been fully prepared for the risks involved.
and nearby Benin launched joint patrols last year in a bid to combat the