German company says crew taken by pirates off Nigeria coast

BERLIN (Updated) -- A German shipping company said pirates raided one of its vessels off the coast of Nigeria and took six crew members hostage.

Cor Radings, a spokesman for Hamburg-based Peter Doehle Schiffahrts-KG, said Tuesday, October 24, that the Liberia-flagged container ship MV Demeter was attacked early Saturday morning before entering the port of Onne, Nigeria.

The Sea Guardian consultancy said the Demeter "was attacked by pirates" at about 7:00 am (0600 GMT) on Saturday south of the Nigerian oil city, Port Harcourt.

"Pirates boarded the ship, kidnapped six crew, including (the) master, chief officer, second officer, second engineer, bosun and cook," it said on its website www.sguardian.com Monday.

Radings said the attackers boarded the ship, seized the hostages and fled with them. He said the remaining crew was able to guide the ship to safer waters.

Radings said: "Our top priority now is to try and establish contact with the kidnappers."

He described the crew members as being from Eastern Europe and Asia, but wouldn't give more details for privacy reasons.

The majority of pirate attacks in waters off West Africa take place off Nigeria's coast.

Reports suggested the attack was carried out by eight pirates in a black speedboat, it added.

The Demeter had been travelling from the capital of Equatorial Guinea, Malabo, to the Liberian capital Monrovia at the time.

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has recorded 121 piracy incidents in international waters this year, including shootings, attempted kidnappings and hijackings of ships.

It described in a report published last week that the Gulf of Guinea remained a "hot spot for attacks", despite a fall in the number of incidents elsewhere in the world.

"The waters off Nigeria remain particularly risky," said the head of the IMB Pottengal Mukundan, pointing to the waters off the the state of Bayelsa, Bonny Island and Port Harcourt.

Mukundan said there had been an increase in reported hijackings and kidnappings, although many more had not been reported.

The IMB said "39 of the 49 crewmembers kidnapped globally occurred off Nigerian waters in seven separate incidents".

"Other crew kidnappings in 2017 have been reported 60 nautical miles (69 miles, 111 kilometres) off the coast of Nigeria," it added. (AP/AFP)

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