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MOSCOW, August 30 (Itar-Tass) — African pirates captured a Greek tanker with 24 Russian sailors onboard. The incident occurred not off Somalia, but in the opposite part of Africa off the Western African country Togo. The tanker was carrying about 50,000 tonnes of diesel fuel and petrol.
The tanker Energy Centurion under the flag of the Isle of Man that belonged to the Greek company Golden Energy Management, was captured on Tuesday 30 kilometres away from Lome, Togo’s capital, the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily reported. The Togolese police, which were patrolling the Gulf of Guinea by police boat, and the pirates engaged in a shootout, but the policemen failed to defend the ship. The ship’s crewmen were not injured, according to available reports. The pirates led the captured tanker from Benin.
“The pirate attacks on the ships in this region ceased to be a rare fact a long time ago,” chief editor of the Maritime Bulletin Internet resource Mikhail Voitenko told the newspaper. “The British chemical tanker Anuket Emerald with the Russian-Philippine crew was captured ten days before this incident. This capture was committed at the same place. The ship has not got on the line for five days, the radio contact was lost with her at all. Five days later the captain noted that the ship was captured and released then. No crewmen were wounded. The British tanker was captured with the same goal as other vessels in this part of the world, particularly to steal some cargoes, namely expensive oil products. The tanker Energy Centurion was en route to Lome with 50,000 tonnes of diesel fuel or petrol onboard. They are stealing as much as they can steal,” he noted.
The Kommersant daily found that the crew of the tanker, which belonged to the Greek company Enterprises Shipping and Trading S.A., was recruited by the Novorossiisk crewing agency Alpha Marine Crew Services. Director of this agency Oleg Kravchenko noted that the tanker was carrying 23 Russian citizens and a Greek citizen (the captain) and most sailors are residents of Rostov-on-Don and Novorossiisk.
The Russian Foreign Ministry reported on Wednesday that right after the pirate attack the shipowners had to get in contact with the captain, who pledged that “there is no threat to the life of the crew.” According to the diplomats, “this is not the hostage taking, but stealing,” as the tanker was carrying 50,000 tonnes of diesel fuel and petrol. Kravchenko has the same opinion on the issue. “In this sea area the ships are captured, brought to Benin or Nigeria, then some part of cargoes are stolen, after that the ships and the crew are released. Contrary to Somalia no one demands a ransom in this sea area,” he explained.
The Energy Centurion capture is already the 40th incident with merchant vessels in the Gulf of Guinea this year. The newspaper also published an interview with Mikhail Voitenko, who stated that the piracy in this sea area is becoming “a sharper headache for the navigation than the piracy in Somalia.” According to him, Guinean pirates usually treat crewmen tougher than Somali pirates, as they are not interested in leaving the sailors alive. Meanwhile, they are frequently chasing not only for cargoes, but also for the equipment and personal things of crewmen.