The 19 crew members of crude oil tanker Nave Constellation, who were kidnapped on December 3 off Nigeria, have been released, the owners and managers of the ship informed.
The abducted crew members included 18 Indian nationals and one Turkish national.
“All of those taken were released and are now safe and undergoing medical tests and debriefing, following which they will return to their loved ones at home. All those taken are in good spirits and well, given the circumstances of their time in captivity,” a joint statement from Navios Maritime Acquisition Corporation and Anglo-Eastern Tanker Management (Hong Kong) reads.
“Owners and managers wish to thank all the crew members and their families for their courage and fortitude during this difficult and worrying period; also to thank the government agencies, authorities, maritime institutions and specialists who have all done so much in securing the release of our much-valued seafarers.”
The two companies added that they will not release any operational details of the kidnap or release in order not to jeopardize the safety of seafarers still being held elsewhere or to encourage future criminal events and seizures.
To remind, the Hong Kong-flagged crude oil tanker had departed Bonny Offshore Terminal in fully laden condition when she was boarded by armed men late on the night of December 3rd.
The criminal gang kidnapped 19 of those on board taking them as hostage; while 7 seafarers remained on board and were instructed to take the tanker to a safe position to await the arrival of a security vessel and other support craft. There was no pollution or damage to the vessel.
The incident was shortly followed by the kidnapping of an even larger group of seafarers. On December 15, twenty crew members were kidnapped from a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker off Benin, marking “the largest kidnapping event in West Africa within 2019”.
The 19,100 dwt MT Duke was attacked and boarded by six pirates while sailing from Luanda, Angola, to Lome, Togo, with a cargo of fuel oil.
Maritime bodies have been warning about the worrying rise in kidnappings and piracy attacks in West Africa, in particular, the Gulf of Guinea, calling for action to curb the trend and bolster security beyond the Nigerian EEZ.