By Marjaleen Ramos, Roy Mabasa, and AFP
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesday said it was closely monitoring the reported kidnapping of eight seafarers, including two Filipinos, from a Greek-flagged oil tanker, in a Cameroon port on Tuesday.
Armed men staged a night raid on the Greek oil tanker anchored at a Cameroonian port, and abducted eight crewmen, including the vessel’s Greek captain, the merchant marine ministry and the ship’s owner said Tuesday.
The seamen, which also included five Greeks and a Ukrainian, were part of a 28-member crew aboard the Happy Lady in the port of Limbe, near the economic capital Douala, the ministry said in a statement.
“Merchant Marine Minister Yannis Plakiotakis is following developments closely, along with the Greek foreign ministry and the oil tanker’s operator,” the statement said.
DFA said that the Philippine Embassy in Abuja, which has jurisdiction over Cameroon, was coordinating with relevant authorities to ensure safety and security of the Filipino seafarers.
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) had earlier declared the seas around West Africa as the world’s most dangerous for piracy.
Out of the 75 seafarers taken hostage onboard or abducted for ransom worldwide in 2019, some 62 of them were captured in the Gulf of Guinea – off the waters of Cameroon, Nigeria, Guinea, Togo, and Benin.
In a report first published in June 2019, the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre recorded 78 piracy incidents and armed robbery against ships in the first half of this year, compared with 107 incidents for the same period of 2018.
At least 73% of all piracy attacks worldwide or 57 vessels, were boarded successfully.
“Armed pirates in these high-risk waters kidnapped 27 crewmembers in the first half of 2019, and 25 in the same period in 2018. Two chemical tankers were hijacked, as well as a tug that was then used in another attack. Of the nine vessels fired upon worldwide, eight were off the coast of Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer. These attacks took place on average 65 nautical miles off the coast – meaning they are classified as acts of piracy,” the IMB said in its report.