Two Russian Seafarers Taken Hostage Off Nigeria

The Russian embassy in Nigeria is confirming the abduction of two seafarers in the latest pirate attack in the Gulf of Guinea. This incident comes a little more than a month after the Russian embassy was successful in liberating seven other sailors that were also abducted in the same area.

The latest incident took place aboard a Liberian-flagged refer ship the Water Phoenix, which is managed by the Dutch shipping company Seatrade. The the vessel was approximately 31 nautical miles south southwest of the Nigerian port of Lagos on September 8 moving at a speed of 14 knots towards the port. The AIS track shows that the ship took evasive maneuvers as it was being approached and before it was boarded by an unknown number of people. The Water Phoenix was later stopped and drifting but then escorted into Lagos.

Local media reports suggest that 16 of the 18 crew members aboard were able to take shelter in a safe space but that the captain and one sailor remained on the bridge. Both were Russians and were reportedly taken hostage by the boarders.

The Russian embassy says that it is working with local law enforcement authorities in Nigeria to locate and gain the release of the two seafarers.

In July, seven Russians working aboard the Curacao Trader were also taken hostage in the same area. In that case, the embassy was able to gain their release on August 24, approximately five weeks after they were taken. These sailors departed Nigeria the day before this latest incident happened.

Dryad reports that this was the 13 incident to take place in the region around Lagos in the last year. Most of the incidents however resulted in thefts. The boarding of the Water Phoenix was the third to happen south of Lagos this year alone. The number of incidents and seafarers taken hostage has increased slightly in 2020.

The broader Nigeria region in the Gulf of Guinea is currently considered to be the most dangerous region for maritime crime and piracy with the number of incidents in the area exceeding other parts of the globe. A total of 95 seafarers have been kidnapped during 18 incidents off the coast of West Africa in 2020. Overall, there have been 42 incidents in Nigeria territorial waters in the past year.

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