Danish oil tanker crew kidnapped off West Africa rescued

But since 2021, shippers say pirates have been raiding farther out in international waters. 

Six crew members kidnapped by pirates last month from a Danish oil tanker off Congo have been rescued from Nigeria, the ship’s owner said Monday.

The Liberian-flagged Monjasa Reformer had 16 sailors on board when it was attacked by pirates on March 25. Despite being owned by a Danish company, none of the crew were Danish.

Oil tanker crew kidnapped

When the 135-metre-long (443-feet) tanker was found by the French navy the following week off the coast of Sao Tome and Principe in the Gulf of Guinea, the remaining crew said six of their colleagues had been kidnapped.

“All six crew members who were kidnapped from the oil tanker, Monjasa Reformer, are now safely recovered from an undisclosed location in Nigeria,” Monjasa said.

It did not specify if ransom was paid.

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Monjasa CEO Anders Ostergaard said they “are in a relatively good health condition given the difficult circumstances they have been under in the last more than five weeks. 

“They have all been receiving medical checks and are now being repatriated to their home countries to reunite with their families,” he said.

Monjasa had previously said it had lost contact with the crew after pirates boarded the ship.

– Previous lull –

“Unfortunately, this and other recent and similar hijackings in the Gulf of Guinea clearly demonstrates the need for joint international political action to face these issues once and for all,” Monjasa said.

Pirates have long been a risk in the Gulf of Guinea — a major shipping route stretching 5,700 kilometres (3,500 miles) from Senegal to Angola, with Nigerian gangs carrying out most attacks.  

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But since 2021, shippers say pirates have been raiding farther out in international waters. 

Their violence and sophisticated tactics prompted pleas from shippers for a more robust foreign naval presence like the mission to curb attacks from Somali pirates a decade ago. 

Many of the attacks in recent years have been carried out by Nigerian criminal gangs using speed boats from hideouts in the Delta region. 

Some gangs have captured larger fishing vessels which they use as a “mothership” base to raid further out to sea.

But the region, with a lot of oil tanker traffic, has also seen a lull in activity recently.

According to a report by The Maritime Information Cooperation and Awareness Center (MICA), only two people were kidnapped in one act in 2022, compared to 146 in 27 events in 2019. 

The maritime organisation noted that the “piracy threat was dormant until mid-December” of 2022, but stressed it was “by no means eradicated, with criminal groups likely focusing on other activities”.

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Last week, just off the coast of Gabon, the Russian captain of a US-owned bulk carrier was kidnapped along with two of his officers.

The 190-metre Grebe Bulker, owned by Eagle Bulk Shipping, was attacked as it was moored off Owendo, a port on the southern tip of the capital Libreville.

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