Crew of container ship 'kidnapped by pirates' off Benin

The Tommi Ritscher (above) was boarded while at anchor off the port of Cotonou. PHOTO: MARINETRAFFIC.COM/BAREND JANSE

BERLIN (AFP) - Eight crew members of a Singapore-owned container ship are missing and thought to have been kidnapped after it was stormed by pirates off Benin, the ship's German management firm said on Tuesday (April 21).

Shipping firm Transeste said that the vessel, the Tommi Ritscher, had been boarded on Sunday while at anchor off the port of Cotonou.

It added that an operation to recover the ship found 11 crew members safely aboard, but "regrettably, eight crew members remain missing and are now believed to have been kidnapped by the pirates".

"The Benin Navy led an operation assisted by a Nigerian Special Taskforce to board the vessel early today confirming the safety of the 11 crew members and the absence of the pirates and eight seafarers."

"Our thoughts are with the families of the missing seafarers during this difficult time and we are updating them regularly on the situation."

Benin lies at the heart of the Gulf of Guinea, which which stretches some 5,700km from Senegal to Angola.

Coastal waters in the centre of this vast region have become an epicentre of pirate attacks, lootings and kidnappings for ransom.

Last year, out of 162 incidents of piracy and maritime armed robbery reported around the world, 64 occurred in the the Gulf of Guinea, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

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