8 sailors, including 2 Filipinos, abducted from Greek oil tanker

ATHENS: Armed men attacked a Greek oil tanker near Cameroon’s economic capital Douala on Tuesday and abducted eight men including the vessel’s Greek captain, the merchant marine ministry said.

The five Greeks, two Filipinos and a Ukrainian were part of a 28-member crew aboard the Happy Lady at anchor in the port of Limbe, the ministry said in a statement.

One crewman, a Greek national, was injured in the ankle by a stray bullet, and taken to a local hospital, port police said in a statement.

“Merchant Marine Minister Yannis Plakiotakis … is following developments closely, along with the Greek foreign ministry and the oil tanker’s operator,” the statement said.

The port’s police press office said the ship is owned by Athens-based Eastern Mediterranean Athens.

Piracy has disrupted the operations of sub-Saharan Africa’s two main oil producers – Nigeria and Angola – and severely disrupted international maritime transport essential to the continent, costing billions of dollars.

Epicentre of piracy

The Gulf of Guinea, which stretches some 5,700km from Senegal to Angola, has become the new world epicentre of pirate attacks, lootings and kidnappings for ransom, especially along the Nigerian coast.

From January to September, 82% of maritime kidnappings in the world occurred in the Gulf of Guinea, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

The pirates sometimes divert ships for several days, long enough to plunder the cargo and demand huge ransoms before freeing the crew.

Armed men raided another Greek oil tanker, the Elka Aristote, in November around 10 nautical miles off the Togolese capital Lome, capturing four sailors.

They released three of the men on Dec 13, but one died in captivity.

An investigation is still underway, but “it appears his death was not a result of actions by the hostage-takers but of illness,” the tanker’s shipbuilder said at the time.