Navy foils abduction of 25 foreigners by sea pirates
THE Nigerian Navy has foiled an attempt by suspected sea pirates to abduct 25 foreign nationals aboard a Maersk merchant ship carrying general cargo to Nigeria.
The Executive Officer of the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Pathfinder, Olusegun Soyemi, while briefing journalists at Onne, Rivers State yesterday, said the crew members, including the ship’s captain, were of mixed nationalities consisting of eight Philippines, eight South Africans, five Indians, two Britons and two from Thailand.
He said that they were all rescued unharmed when sea pirates attempted to hijack the Maersk vessel.
According to him, Safmarine Kuramo, a Maersk merchant ship registered in Singapore, was transporting general cargo from Port-Noire in Congo to Onne Sea Port in Rivers State.
“On January 5 at about 08:00 hours; Sufmarine Kuramo was attacked by sea pirates about 60 nautical miles off the coast of Bonny Island (in Rivers) Fairway Bouy.
“We got may-day distress call that the ship was boarded by unconfirmed number of sea pirates after entering the nation’s territorial waters.
“We immediately dispatched a warship (NNS Centenary) and attack gunboats led by Navy Capt. Chiedozie Okehie of the Eastern Naval Command to rescue the situation.
“The sea pirates apparently on sighting advancing naval troops fled the scene for fear of being arrested by our operatives.
“The operation was largely successful as all 25 foreign crew members, including the captain, are safe and unhurt, while cargo onboard the ship is intact,” he said.
Soyemi said the pirates had fired several gunshots at the ship’s control room apparently to scare and subdue any resistance from the captain and crew-members.
Speaking also, the Commanding Officer of NNS Centenary, Captain Chiedozie Okehie, who led the operation, said the crew-members locked and hid themselves in the ship’s citadel (engine room).
He said the rescue was successful partly due to the courage and bravery exhibited by the ship’s captain – a woman.
According to him, in spite all odds, she covertly gave Navy operatives briefs while pirates on board the ship made several attempt to break into the citadel.
“Immediately we got to the ship, we carried out thorough searches of the compartments and cabins to check if any pirate had remained onboard.
“Investigations are ongoing to ascertain what happened and who carried out the attack”, he added.
Also, the Captain of Safamarine Kuramo, Zetta Gous-Conradie, a South African, who described the experience as horrific, commended the Nigerian Navy for its prompt response to her distress call.
“We are very grateful when the Navy came onboard because at some point, we had thought the pirates would take us hostage.”