A French oil tanker that went missing near the Ivory Coast over the weekend has been hijacked by pirates for its cargo.French oil tanker that went missing near the Ivory Coast over the weekend has been hijacked by pirates for its cargo.
Alexis Guie, a spokesman for the Autonomous Port of Abidjan, where the ship was last seen, said: “The boat was hijacked in international waters”. France said it had yet to receive any demands from the pirates.
Mr Guie added: “When a boat is hijacked more than 300 kilometres (185 miles) from the Ivorian coast, that can’t be in our waters”. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) issued a security alert for West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea following a spate of violent attacks in recent days.
The Gulf, which includes waters off Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, has emerged as a new piracy hotspot, with 62 attacks recorded in 2012.
Noel Choong, head of the IMB’s piracy reports division, said there had been three attacks there in the past five days. “It appears pirates are moving towards the Ivory Coast because Nigeria and Benin have increased patrols in the Gulf of Guinea”, he said.
“All of these vessels were tankers carrying gas oil. They’re all taken back to Nigeria to siphon off the oil, then the crews are freed”. Pirates in West Africa have been more willing to use violence than their Somali counterparts, as their income is made by selling the cargo on the black market rather than from ransoming the crew members.
Experts say many of the pirates come from Nigeria, where there’s a thriving market for stolen crude oil.
Attacks in the waters off Nigeria, Benin and Togo have been commonplace for years but attacks as far west as the Ivory Coast are a new development.