Pirates hijack VLCC tanker off Nigerian coast

A VLCC was hijacked Tuesday evening close to the Egina FPSO, off the coast of Nigeria, with 19 members of the crew kidnapped, the vessel’s owner Navios Tankers confirmed Wednesday.

The Nave Constellation, a Hong Kong-flagged, 296,988 dwt crude oil tanker, was boarded as it was preparing for departure after loading at Bonny Island — an offshore terminal located 77 nautical miles off the coast of Nigeria — before heading to the Far East. Crew members were kidnapped and the tanker ordered to go to a “safe location,” Navios said, adding that the flag state has been informed of the incident, along with other necessary authorities.

The tanker is understood to have sustained no damage in the process. “It’s big news, as it is the first time this has happened [to a VLCC] to my knowledge. Normally, pirates attack smaller product tankers and steal the cargo,” said a tanker broker active in the region.

“We can already imagine it will have an impact on insurance premiums but it is hard to assess until you see the next offers on cargoes,” said a second industry source. A VLCC tanker broker based in India, a popular destination for crude oil stems from Nigeria, added: “This is a really bad situation, and will raise flags with insurance companies.” More information will be provided as events develop further, Navios said.

One Earth Future, which produces an annual State of Maritime Piracy, says that while attacks have been falling substantially in some regions of the world, in West Africa they have been on the rise and are now more frequent than anywhere else. The hijacking follows a spate of recent attacks in the region. On November 25, pirates attacked the Singapore-owned Pacific Warden — an anchor handler off the coast of Equatorial Guinea, kidnapping seven crew members. On November 4, the Greek-owned Elka Aristotle — a 95,000 dwt tanker — was attacked off the coast of Togo, with four members of the crew kidnapped despite having armed guards on the ship. This followed shortly after the kidnapping of nine people from the Norwegian-owned Bonita off the coast of Benin.

Pix: Hijacked Tanker