Pirates kidnap 19 crew members from Greek tanker off Nigeria

FILE PHOTO:Members of the Puntland Maritime Police Force on patrol for pirates near the village of Elayo, Somalia./Getty Images

Pirates have kidnapped 19 crew members from a crude oil tanker off Nigeria, an official with the ship’s operator said on Thursday.

The loaded vessel, the Nave Constellation, was attacked 77 nautical miles off Bonny island late on Dec. 3 and the crew – 18 Indians and one Turk – were seized, the official said.

Another seven crew members remain on board the vessel. Neither the vessel nor the cargo were damaged, the official said.

The shipping industry has warned in recent months about the increasing dangers faced by seafarers sailing through the Gulf of Guinea region, particularly around Nigeria, with a greater focus on kidnappings by pirate gangs.

The International Maritime Bureau watchdog said in October the Gulf of Guinea accounted for more than four fifths of crew kidnappings globally.

Maritime security officials say over the past year there has been a growing shift by pirate gangs in the Gulf of Guinea and especially Nigeria toward kidnapping crews rather than stealing cargoes, aiming to extract ransom from ship owners for crews being held and subjected to violence.