Twelve crew members of a Swiss ship seized off Nigeria last month have been freed, Swiss judicial officials said on Sunday, October 28.
Negotiations between the owner Massoel Shipping and the kidnappers led to the release of seven Filipinos, a Bosnian, a Croatian, a Romanian, a Slovenian and a Ukrainian, all of whom were then flown to Switzerland, ATS news agency and the Basel prosecutor’s office said.
The bulk cargo ship, MV Glarus, and its cargo of wheat are still in the hands of pirates who captured the ship on September 22 and destroyed most of its communications equipment.
It was not known whether a ransom was paid for the crew’s release.
The ship had been transporting wheat from Lagos to Port Harcourt, in southern Nigeria, when it was hijacked in the Gulf of Guinea off Nigeria’s Bonny Island.
German-language newspaper Blick reported that the pirates belonged to the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which says it wants the region’s population to receive a bigger share of the country’s oil and gas revenues.
That report has not been confirmed by authorities.
Gulf of Guinea a global piracy hotspot
The International Maritime Bureau said in late July that there were six kidnappings of crews around the world in the first half of 2018. All were in the Gulf of Guinea.
Of 16 incidents in which ships came under gunfire in 2017, seven were in the waters which stretch 5,700 kilometres (3,541 miles) from Senegal to Angola.
More than 60 crew were reported kidnapped last year in waters off Nigeria, Africa’s leading crude oil producer, although many attacks are not reported. The Gulf of Guinea provides ample opportunity for pirates seeking to exploit tankers.
In May, China sent its guided-missile frigate Yancheng to Nigeria for the multinational Exercise Eku Kugbe in the Gulf of Guinea, the first time China has participated. Eku Kugbe focused on piracy and regional threats to shipping and involved 12 ships from the Nigerian Navy and one each from Cameroon, Ghana, Togo, France, Portugal and China.
China is Nigeria’s second-biggest trading partner and Chinese state-owned companies China National Offshore Oil Company, PetroChina, and Sinopec all have investments in Nigeria.
Eku Kugbe was sponsored by the Economic Committee of Central African States, and the Economic Community of West African States, both of which have strengthened maritime security initiatives in recent years. ECOWAS received surveillance and logistical equipment from Germany to combat piracy in May.
Eku Kugbe is separate from the U.S.-led Obangame Express 2018, which took place in late May and early June and involved more than 20 African countries.
With reporting from AFP