Nineteen sailors from a Hong Kong-registered oil tanker were kidnapped by pirates this week off the coast of Nigeria - an area in the Gulf of Guinea known to be dangerous for seafarers.
The Marine Department on Friday confirmed that the Hong Kong-flagged crude oil tanker - the Nave Constellation - was the victim of a pirate attack in the early hours of Wednesday, Hong Kong time.
"Out of the 26 crew on board, 18 Indians and one Turkish crew members were kidnapped and taken away by pirates," a department spokeswoman said.
"No personal injuries or ship damage was reported and the seven crew members who remained on board were all Indian."
All the appropriate authorities, have been alerted and are respondingNavios Maritime Acquisition Corp
She said the tanker's management company was working with insurance and security agents to seek the safe release of the kidnapped crew.
"The Marine Department is now in close liaison with the company and relevant consulates to render all necessary assistance," the spokeswoman said.
The tanker's owner, Navios Maritime Acquisition Corp, said in a statement that the Hong Kong-flagged tanker was attacked by pirates after it departed fully loaded from Bonny Offshore Terminal off Nigeria.
The department said armed men boarded the tanker and "departed the vessel taking 19 of those on board with them as hostage". The Nave Constellation was built in 2010 and has a deadweight tonnage of 296,988.
The seven remaining crew were instructed to take the tanker to a safe position to await the arrival of a security vessel and other support craft. The company said there was no pollution to the surrounding ocean or damage to the vessel.
"Our prime concern is the safety and early return of the 19 persons taken by the pirate gang," the firm said. "All the appropriate authorities, have been alerted and are responding and all the necessary action is being taken to secure their well-being and early release."
The company said the families of those taken by the pirates were being informed of the developing situation.
Reuters reported that the shipping industry had been warned in recent months about the increasing dangers faced by seafarers in the Gulf of Guinea, particularly around Nigeria.
The International Maritime Bureau in October said the Gulf of Guinea accounted for more than 80 per cent of crew kidnappings globally. Maritime security officials said there has been a growing shift by pirate gangs toward kidnapping crew - rather than stealing cargo - to try to extort ransom.
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