Whereabouts of 19 kidnapped crew members still unknown …As NIMASA, Navy launch manhunt for abductors
The whereabouts of 19 crew members kidnapped on board a crude oil tanker, MT ‘Nave Constellation’ off the Coast of Bonny Island, Nigeria, is still uncertain. The loaded vessel was attacked 77 nautical miles off Bonny Island late on Dec. 3 and the crew comprising 18 Indians and one Turk were seized and taken to an unknown destination.
The Hong Kong-flagged supertanker is capable of carrying up to two million barrels of oil, is operated by Greek shipping company Navios Tankers Management
But Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside has assured that the agency is working with relevant partners both international and local to ensure the seized crew members were secure and safe.
The DG who spoke in Abuja on Thursday, at the sidelines of the ongoing National Transportation Summit organised by the Chartered Institute of Transport Administration of Nigeria CIoTA, also disclosed that the agency has made contact with the remaining seven crew members who were not abducted, saying they are safe and well.
“The operators of the vessel made contact with NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy and we immediately went to work”, he said.
The DG also disclosed that the agency was ready to fast-track the nation’s maritime security architecture.
It was gathered that the vessel owners had operated for over 10 days within Nigeria’s territorial waters without establishing contact with the Harbour Masters neither did it establish contact with the authorities in Nigeria.
While reacting to this, the DG said: “However, that is not an issue because life is more precious than any other consideration. We have also immediately contacted the naval unit around that area and they have gone to work. The Navy has established contact with the remaining crew members onboard the vessel and the seven persons onboard the vessel are safe and the vessel is safe”.
He also lamented that this is happening at a time that efforts are being put together to make Nigerian waterways safe and assured that the agency will not rest on its oars. “I think this would ultimately serve as a catalyst for us to fast-track what we are doing to safeguard our waterways so that commerce can thrive again and people can do economic activities without fear or hindrance”.
While sympathising with the victims and their families for the ordeal and challenges of being kidnapped, he urged every concerned citizen and stakeholders to come together and work with NIMASA and relevant security agencies to end the menace.
Recall that Nigeria recently hosted a Global Maritime Security Conference GMSC where several engagement with stakeholders from all over the world, on the global maritime scale towards enhancing collaboration among maritime nations in order to find lasting solution to the security issues on the Gulf of Guinea and on the entire West and Central African sub-region.