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Barely 48 hours after a merchant ship hijacked of the Coast of Benin Republic waters, have Nigerian Navy Special Forces foiled an attempt by sea pirates to hijack and abduct 25 foreign nationals aboard a Maersk merchant ship on Nigerian waters, carrying general cargo to Nigeria.
Authorities of NNS Pathfinder, Port Harcourt made the disclosure on Sunday at a media briefing.
Executive Officer, Pathfinder, Navy Captain Olusegun Soyemi who said the hijack was foiled at Onne Sea Port, pointed out that the vessel berthed safely with the rescued crew members unharmed after the rescue.
Soyemi gave the identity and number of said the crew members aboard the ship to include the ship’s captain and nationalities made up of 8 Philippines, 8 South Africans, 5 Indians, 2 Britons and 2 others from Thailand.
He said the ship, Safmarine Kuramo, a Maersk merchant ship registered in Singapore, was transporting general cargo from Port-Noire, Congo, to Onne Sea Port in Rivers.
His words, “On Jan. 5 at about 08:00 hours; Sufmarine Kuramo was attacked by sea pirates about 60 nautical miles off the coast of Bonny Island (in Rivers) Fairway Bouy.
“We got may-day distress call that the ship was boarded by unconfirmed number of sea pirates after entering the nation’s territorial waters.
“We immediately dispatched a warship (NNS Centenary) and attack gunboats led by Navy Capt. Chiedozie Okehie of the Eastern Naval Command to rescue the situation.
“The sea pirates apparently on sighting advancing naval troops fled the scene for fear of being arrested by our operatives.
“The operation was largely successful as all 25 foreign crew members, including the captain, are safe and unhurt, while cargo onboard the ship is intact,” he said.
Soyemi said the pirates had fired several gunshots at the ship’s control room apparently to scare and subdue any resistance from the captain and crew members.
Commanding Officer of NNS Centenary, Capt. Chiedozie Okehie, who led the operation, said the crew members locked and hid themselves in the ship’s citadel (engine room).
He said the rescue was successful partly due to the courage and bravery exhibited by the ship’s captain, a woman.
“Despite the dangers, the Captain held her nerve and covertly gave navy operatives briefs as to location, time of the pirate’s entry into the ship even while the pirates were on board the ship making attempts to break into the citadel” Captain Chidozie said.
“Immediately we got to the ship, we carried out thorough searches of the compartments and cabins to check if any pirate had remained onboard.
“Investigations are ongoing to ascertain what happened and who carried out the attack”.
Okehie assured that the navy under the command of the CNS, Vice Adm. Ibok-Ete Ibas remained fully committed to safety of the nation’s waterways and maritime environment.
Captain of Safamarine Kuramo, Ms Zetta Gous-Conradie, a South African in her speech, described the experience as horrific while hailing the Nigerian Navy for its prompt response to her distress call.
“We were very grateful when the navy came onboard because at some point we had thought the pirates would take us hostage.
“The heat was stifling because the temperature was very hot at the citadel, and at some point my crew members and I had thought we would suffocate and die,” Gous Conradie said.
Recall that Military authorities in Nigeria last week debunked reports in foreign media that Nigerian militant group with sympathy to Biafra and IPOB hijacked a ship and are demanding the release of Nnamdi Kanu by the federal government before the ship will be released.

However, Acting Director of Defence Information, Brig-General Rabe Abubakar said the information waved it off saying, “It is not true. The story about the hijack has happened but not within our waters and it is not under any particular group.

He added, “But it (ship) is currently being guarded by Benin Republic Navy. The name of the Ship is MT Leondias (9279927), a merchant tanker. The ship is presently in Benin waters, about 7.5 nautical miles, off Cotonou Port under the watch of the Benin Republic Navy.”

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