Update: Port officials from the port of Abidjan have confirmed that the M/T Gascogne was in fact hijacked by pirates while in international waters.
Ivory Coast authorities said the Gascogne had been chartered by South Korean petroleum transporter SK Shipping, according to a Reuters report. The vessel had loaded 3,000 tonnes of diesel fuel in Abidjan on Jan. 30 but had already off loaded a portion of its cargo when it was seized on Sunday, the report states.
Original: A French-owned tanker with 17 crew members that went missing off Ivory Coast over the weekend is believed to have been hijacked by Nigerian pirates, the International Maritime Bureau and the tanker’s owners said on Monday.
The tanker owner, SEA Tankers, confirmed via an emailed statement that communication was lost with its operated product tanker M/T Gascogne off the Ivory Coast on Sunday morning.
“The owner lost contact on (February) 3rd. We believe it was hijacked with 17 crew on board,” added Noel Choong, head of the IMB’s piracy reports division based in Malaysia.
The M/T Gascogne is a Luxemburg flagged vessel built in 2004.
In January, the Panamanian-flagged tanker, ITRI, was siezed by gunmen as the vessel was preparing to offload its cargo at the port of Abidjan. The vessel was released about a week later after the pirates made off with the ship’s cargo, about 5,000 tons of jet fuel.
Both these incidents and similar attacks and hijackings in 2012 have sparked fears that the threat of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is not just limited to the waters off Nigeria.