Ghanaians among crew of hijacked French vessel

The Bourbon Leda
The Bourbon Leda

Two Ghanaians are among the crew of a French vessel hijacked by pirates off the coast of Nigeria, according to a report by the Associated Press.

The AP report said the pirates hijacked the French boat and took its nine crew members hostage in the latest attack in some of the world’s most dangerous waters off oil-rich southern Nigeria.

The captain of Bourbon Leda, the report said was able to speak with the boat’s owners Sunday, January 4, 2009. The company has said in a statement that all nine crew members were unharmed.
Bourbon provides specialist boats for the oil and gas industry. The company said in the statement Monday that it was working to free the crew.

Piracy is rampant in the waters off Nigeria with attacks and hostage-taking linked to militants using hijacking and armed attacks to put pressure on the Nigerian government to send more oil proceeds to the region. The region is home to Nigeria’s oil industry which contributes a large part of the country’s economy, but the local people of the region are among the poorest in Nigeria.

Bourbon spokeswoman Stephanie Elbaz quoted by the report said she believed the nine crew members— five Nigerians, two Ghanaians, one person from Cameroon and one from Indonesia — remained on the supply vessel. She said she had no information about the number of pirates or their demands.

It was the second time in just more than two months that a boat owned by Bourbon was attacked and those aboard taken hostage.

Seven French and three African oil workers seized Oct. 31 from a tugboat off the coast of Cameroon were freed 11 days later. French officials said no ransom was paid then.

The latest attack comes as pirate attacks increase, particularly off the coast of Somalia. A French navy vessel thwarted two attacks Sunday by heavily armed Somali pirates on cargo ships in the dangerous Gulf of Aden and captured 19 of them.

In 2008, pirates attacked 111 ships in the Gulf of Aden, hijacking 42 of them, and receiving tens of millions of dollars in ransoms, the report said.

The names of the crew however, have not been released.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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