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Foreign Ministry: Nothing Threatens Russians Onboard Pirated Tanker

Foreign Ministry: Nothing Threatens Russians Onboard Pirated Tanker 30.08.2012
Text: Vzglyad
Photo: korabli.eu
Twenty three Russian sailors are currently onboard Greek-operated tanker Energy Centurion captured by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea nearby Togo. According to latest reports, the matter is not hostage taking but robbery.

As for the press service of Russian foreign ministry, nothing threatens lives of the tanker's crew.

"The operator says there are 23 Russians and one Greek [shipmaster] on board. Shipowners managed to contact the shipmaster right after the seizure, and he said the crew was out of danger", reports the foreign ministry's website.

The tanker was carrying 50,000 tons of diesel fuel and gasoline.

Russian embassy to Benin and Togo reported that Togolese coast guard boats were pursuing the pirated tanker but failed.

Having entered territorial waters of Benin, Energy Centurion escaped Benin's patrol boats and headed towards Nigeria.

However, Russian embassy in Abudja reports the tanker is not within Nigerian waters. According to available information, the ship is in neutral waters far away from Nigeria.

Earlier on, the shipowner said there were 24 Russians on board the captured vessel.

A skirmish occurred between pirates and police patrol in the Gulf of Guinea. However, law-enforcement officers on patrol boats failed to release the ship and pirates hijacked the tanker.

"They are not pirates demanding a ransom; they are robbers who capture a ship to steal cargo. That is why we hope they would set the ship free after dumping diesel fuel", said a spokesman for the ship's operating company.

"In this region, pirates traditionally hold a captured vessel for 4-5 days and rob the cargo. Normally, it is diesel fuel", he added.

International Maritime Bureau confirms that captors have not hurt the crew of Energy Centurion so far.

Recall that the incident happened on Monday, approximately 30 km away from Lome, capital city of Togo. It was the second similar attack occurred in the Gulf of Guinea in the recent two weeks.

In total, six vessels have been captured off West Africa this year, reports International Maritime Bureau. Pirates held each of them for about 10 days while the cargo was transshipped to another vessel.

It is noteworthy that Russian Navy Commander-in-Chief Viktor Chirkov said two months ago that pirates had become more active in the Gulf of Guinea. That region is gradually turning into the second Somalia, said the admiral.

Maritime expert Mikhail Voitenko told Vzglyad newspaper that "Guinean piracy grows along with Somali one trying to be in the same track. It's just because there are crowds of people in Guinea gulf countries who simply hate working. Through my personal experience, West African people are much more blood-thirsty".

Speaking of tactics, Voitenko said that "pirates hijack tankers carrying petroleum cargo (gasoline, kerosene, aircraft fuel), and head for high sea to dump as much oil products as their shiplets can contain. In this way, pirates vandalize a tanker for several days".

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