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Friday, March 1, 2013

abducted MT Halifax released by Pirates

On 4th Nov. 2011, I had posted about the hijacking of a tanker vessel MT Halifax ~ click here to read the earlier post : MT Halifax hijack

Rivers State is one of the 36 states of Nigeria. Its capital is Port Harcourt.  It is so named after the many rivers that border its territory.  Nigeria the most populous country in Africa, has attained notoriety due to rising incidences of piracy involving its people and the locality becoming  hotbed of criminal activities. This  very important shipping route between the Mediterranean sea and the Arabian sea with tens of thousands of ship crossing the gulf annually literally became the ‘Pirate alley’.  Of course they are not alone, there many other places where pirates do operate …..  

At that time it was reported that gunmen boarded the tanker vessel  MT Halifax off Port Harcourt, the main city in the oil-rich Niger Delta.  International Maritime Bureau (IMB) was cited as stating that  the  owners of the vessel lost contact with the tanker on 30 October; and that the crew of 25 were being held by the Pirates.  Even at that time it was hoped that crew would be released unharmed after the crude oil is stolen unlike Somalia, where crew and ships are held for several months  for ransom.  The details of the captive vessel were:

Vessel's name: MT Halifax  (Ex-name(s):  Star Dust / Hawk / Maritime Purdence) IMO number: 8810932  ; Flag: Malta ;  Call sign: 9HMH5;  Port of RegistryValletta ; Type of vessel: Oil Tanker Built: Feb 26, 1992; Summer DWT: 29752.95 MT; Type of Hull – Double Bottom.  The vessel was Lloyds classed,  reportedly owned by Trust A Maritime and operated by Ancora Investment  Trust Inc.   

Generally, we forget after reading about such incidents.  A follow-up revealed that the vessel was released sooner and that the harrowing time for the owners, operators, crew and all others interests in this particular voyage of tanker MT Halifax did come to an end sooner.

BBC reported that the oil tanker MT Halifax that was seized by unidentified gunmen suspected to be pirates was found on 7th Nov 2011.  An official of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA),was quoted that the vessel was located off Bonny Fairway buoy. The vessel was then escorted to Port Harcourt harbour by Nigerian Navy Patrol Team.  Though the report did not confirm nor deny anything about the cargo i.e., the oil, it was felt that the very act was taking away the oil and hence most likely the cargo on board could have been transferred to some other place by the pirates.

While pirates in West Africa have been more willing to use violence in their robberies, the string of pirate attacks have seen crews typically let go unharmed after the crude oil is stolen from the ships. Some  Analysts believe that  many of these pirates come from Nigeria, where corrupt law enforcement allows criminality to thrive.  There is also a school of thought that  hijackings of tanker ships likely is the work of a single, sophisticated criminal gang with knowledge of the oil industry and oil tankers. Those involved in the hijackings may have gotten that experience in the Niger Delta, where thieves tapping pipelines running through swamps steal hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil a day.

Life is tough at sea ~ there are hidden and open perils

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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