18 October 2011, Sweetcrude, Bonny- The Bangladeshi master of an ExxonMobil-chartered offshore vessel has reportedly been kidnapped following an armed attack offshore Nigeria on Monday.
It was gathered that 17 armed men assaulted the vessel, AHST Wilbert Tide close to ExxonMobil’s Oso gas field which is offshore Bonny and abducted the master, while leaving the remaining 19 crew onboard the Tidewater-owned vessel.
Efforts to obtain comments from the vessel’s Lagos-based ship manager, Tidex, proved abortive.
A company statement from ExxonMobil disclosed that armed men carried out the assault near the facility, operated by subsidiary Mobil Producing Nigeria, off Akwa Ibom State in the early hours of Monday.
“At this time, we do not know the identity of the attackers, nor reason for their action. The incident has been reported to security and relevant government agencies,” the statement read.
Another vessel, Joan Chouest, was also attacked in the same area at the same time as the WIlbert Tide.
Kidnappings are relatively common in the onshore oil producing Niger Delta but since an amnesty was agreed with militants in 2009 and the military have cracked down on gangs in the creeks, more attacks have spread offshore.
A sailor was kidnapped from a ship supplying an ExxonMobil oil platform in the same region on 30 September. There has been no update on his whereabouts.
Pirates last week released a ship seized off the coast of Nigeria, freeing the 20-member Eastern European crew who had been held for five days. There was no confirmation from the owners of the ship about a ransom payment.
The incident was the latest in a string of attacks on ships in the Gulf of Guinea that experts say is threatening an emerging trade hub and growing source of oil, metals and agricultural products to world markets.
Pirates in the Gulf of Guinea, which stretches from Guinea to Angola, tend to raid ships for cash and cargo rather than hijacking the crews for ransom like their counterparts off the coast of Somalia.
With reports by Eoin O’Cinneide & news wires