By Clara Nwachukwu & Michael Eboh
A tank ship, belonging to Brila Energy, a Nigerian company, which specialises in trading on petroleum products and other derivatives, carrying 5,000 tonnes of jet fuel has been seized in the Cote d‘ Ivoire port of Abidjan.
According to a statement from the Ivory Coast’s government, the ITRI was seized as it was preparing to deposit the fuel at the port.
Brila Energy, which confirmed the attack, also reassured families of the abducted 16 crew members of their safety, saying they were monitoring the situation.
Port officials said the tanker’s last known position was off the coast of neighbouring Ghana, but Ghanaian authorities said they had been unable to locate the ITRI.
“The vessel is still missing and the hijackers whose sole objective is to steal the cargo of Jet A1 on board the vessel are yet to make any demands,” Chairman Rowaye Jubril told The Associated Press.
The ship initially had trouble docking because a sand storm reduced visibility, an Ivorien government statement said. Later, the ship’s captain radioed the port manager to report difficulty manoeuvring.
Shortly afterwards, contact was lost with the vessel. Then ship consignee Koda Maritime informed port officials that armed men had taken control of the tanker.
Most hijackings in the region occur near oil-rich Nigeria, but analysts say co-ordinated efforts by authorities and neighbouring countries have forced Nigerian pirates to seek easier targets outside their home waters.
“Nigeria and Benin have had joint actions for two years, and they have been quite successful. We haven’t seen the kinds of heavy attacks that we used to see,” said Martin Ewi, a senior researcher with South Africa’s Institute for Security Studies.
“Cote d’ Ivoire seems to be attracting those that have been driven out.”
The Port said its last known position was off the coast of neighbouring Ghana. But Ghanaian authorities said they were unable to locate it when informed of the hijacking by Ivorien maritime officials. “We were informed late last week and our monitoring mechanism as of last Friday revealed no such ship. I can say that it was nowhere in Ghanaian waters as of Friday,” said Peter Isaaka Azumah, director of Ghana’s Maritime Authority.