Pirates kidnap crew of Bourbon offshore vessel

OCTOBER 18, 2012—Pirates off the coast of Nigeria in the Gulf of Guinea kidnapped seven crew members, including six Russians and one Estonian, when they boarded the Anchor Handling Tug Suppy (AHTS) vessel Bourbon Liberty 249 on October 15.

Vessel owner Bourbon Offshore confirms that nine other crew members were still onboard the AHTS vessel, which has reached the Port of Onne. Bourbon reports the crew is safe and sound, and in good health.

The Bourbon Liberty 249 is one of Bourbon Offshore’s Liberty 200 Series AHTS vessels, shown above, built at Dayang Shipyard in China. The 59.8 m x 15m AHTS is classed by ABS +A1, Towing Vessel, Fi-Fi 1, Offshore support vessel AH, E, +AMS, +DPS-2.

Bourbon set up an emergency unit in order to free the hostages. The Paris-based operator is in contact with the crewmembers’ families. Bourbon said it will not make any comment that could adversely affect the liberation of the hostages.

According to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre, which tracks reported piracy incidents, there have been 225 attacks and 25 hijackings worldwide as of September 24. Pirates from Somalia in the Gulf of Aden remain the greatest threat to merchant shipping, with 70 incidents reported this year, 13 hijackings and a total of 212 hostages. There are currently 11 vessels and 188 hostages being held by Somali pirates for ransom. During the first six months of 2012, there have been 17 incidents in Nigerian waters, according to IMB.

Warnings on Nigerian piracy posted on the IMB Piracy Centre website report that armed pirates and robbers have attacked and hijacked vessels and kidnapped crew in rivers, ports, at anchorage and as much as 120 nautical miles off of the coast of Nigeria. In some incidents, pirates have hijacked a vessel for several days to steal cargo and fuel.

Earlier this month, for example, a Greek tanker with a crew of 24 carrying 32,000 tons of petroleum destined for the Port of Abidjian in the Ivory Coast went missing. In early September, the Nigerian Navy successfully freed the oil tanker Abu Dhabi Star, which had been hijacked by pirates about 14 nautical miles from the Port of Lagos, Nigeria. This past August, pirates attacked another Greek tanker off of the coast of Togo, stealing 3,000 tons of fuel before abandoning the ship.