MT APECUS: the Indian sailors were kidnapped on the ship
Five Indian sailors who were abducted from a ship in Nigerian waters, near Bonny, have been rescued after over two months in captivity, India’s Minister of State for Shipping Mansukh Mandaviya said on Friday.
Mandaviya said the seafarers from the vessel ‘MT Apecus’ were kidnapped and taken ashore from the vessel in the outer anchorage off Bonny Island in Nigeria on April 19.
“An Inter-Ministerial Group of Officers (IMGO) was set up by the government under the Ministry of Shipping to deal with potential maritime security situations arising out of any hijacking at sea of merchant’s vessels with Indian crew,” he said in a statement, published by Indian Express.com
The High Commission of India, Abuja, Nigeria conveyed the details of the incident to the Nigerian authorities after which the Nigerian Navy boarded the vessel to secure it as well as carry an investigation of the incident.
Also, the Regional Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre (RMCC), Nigeria continued to assist in the matter, the statement read.
“I am happy to share that due to the sustained efforts of various stakeholders, including the Ministry of Shipping, the Directorate General of Shipping and the High Commission of India, Abuja, Nigeria, the kidnapped Indian seafarers were successfully released and have reached the safe custody of the authorities on June 27,” he said.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar appreciated the help of Nigerian authorities, the Ministry of Shipping and the High Commission of India in Abuja and all other stakeholders who have contributed to the release of the seafarers.
“They are being brought to Port Harcourt under Nigerian police escort and our HC will safely repatriate them to India,” Jaishankar said in a tweet.
In the wake of the kidnapping of the Indian sailors, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) issued a statement accusing the Palau flagged Tanker of conducting trading activities in Nigerian waters since 2014 without permit,
Nevertheless, the agency said it was committed to rescuing the abducted seven crew, comprising five Indian nationals and two other individuals of unspecified nationality.
This it said was being done in collaboration with the Nigerian Navy, the Indian High Commission in Nigeria and other security agencies.
The DG of NIMASA, Dr Dakuku Peterside while condemning the hijack and sympathizing with the victims, pledged the Agency’s commitment to the rescue, working with other relevant government security organisations.
“Preliminary investigations carried out by NIMASA into the vessel involved has thrown up several unresolved facts. Firstly, the MT APECUS has been conducting trading activities in Nigerian waters since 2014 without any valid permits or documentation”.
It was further found that the vessel has changed name and the flag under which she operates on no fewer than a combined fifteen (15) recorded instances with an additional five changes in call sign since 1993 and four MMSI changes, which all point to her suspected involvement in illegal activities.
Before the vessel was hijacked, it was spotted in Lome, Togo on the 26th of February, 2019 for an hour, Tema, Ghana for two hours on the 27th of February, 2019 and Lagos anchorage for twenty nine minutes on 2nd April 2019 until her eventual hijack on the 19th of April.
Reports also indicated the vessel was in the habit of switching off her Automatic Identification System (AIS) in order to avoid detection and had done the same thing prior to being attacked which had made locating her whereabouts extremely difficult. There is no clarity on her business in Bonny area where the incident occurred.