Navy rescues 13 foreigners from pirates off Rivers coast
The Nigerian Navy has rescued 13 foreign nationals aboard a merchant ship leaving Nigeria for Cameroun from suspected sea pirates who tried to hijack their ship and abduct them.
It was gathered that the merchant ship (MT Vectis Osprey), registered in Britain, came into Nigeria from Malabo, Equatorial Guinea last week transporting general cargo.
The ship, it was learnt, after discharging its cargo set sail for Douala, Cameroun on Wednesday, but was attacked by nine heavily armed sea pirates, who boarded the vessel with intent to taking the 13 crew members hostage.
Speaking on the incident, the Commanding Officer of the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Capt. Mustapha Hassan, who led the rescue operation, said the 13 foreigners were rescued unharmed by the Special Forces of the Navy.
Hassan disclosed that the crew members, including the ship’s captain, were of mixed nationalities, consisting of seven Philippinos, two Romanians, one Russian, one Polish, one Indian and one Croatian.
He said the operation launched on July 23 by the CNS has drastically reduced spate of sea piracy and robbery attacks in Nigeria’s maritime environment, while improving the Navy’s response to distress calls.
On his part, captain of the ship, Sobol Evgeny, a Russian, said the pirates sailed on a “blue boat” and were fully armed with AK 47 assault rifles.
Evgeny said that his crew members used every laid down procedure, but couldn’t prevent the pirates from boarding their vessel.
“On realising that we couldn’t stop the pirates from boarding our ship, we immediately locked ourselves inside the ship citadel (safe room) and thereafter sent distress calls to the Nigerian navy.
“The Navy responded promptly and rescued us, if not for their quick response, we would have been taken hostage or worse, killed,” he said.
In a related development, the Navy yesterday impounded and destroyed six large wooden barges laden with estimated 70,000 litres of diesel suspected to have been stolen from pipelines in Rivers.
Commander of Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Pathfinder based in Port Harcourt, Commodore Kennedy Egbuchulam, paraded one suspect before journalists at the destruction exercise in Isaka in Okirika Council.
Egbuchulam said the barges were seized during a routine patrol of waterways and creeks in Isaka general area.
Represented by the NNS Pathfinder’s Base Operation’s Officer, Cdr. Raphael Ekuma, he said the formation destroyed five active illegal refineries in the area between July and August.