Russia’s TASS news agency reported Tuesday that the sailors aboard the oil tanker Pantelena are in good health, and still in Togo at the port of Lomé as Russian diplomats in Gabon arrange to meet with them.
“The sailors remain onboard the vessel, Togo’s authorities are dealing with them now,” a spokesman for the Russian embassy said.
The two Russian sailors and 17 Georgians went missing on August 14, when communications with the Panamanian-flagged Pantelena were lost in the Gulf of Guinea. The ship was en route to Gabon’s coastal capital of Libreville when it went missing about 40 nautical miles from its destination.
It turned up 10 days later to the south near Pointe-Noire in Congo Brazzaville. Lasha Gadilia, the captain of the vessel for Lotus Shipping, the operator based in Athens, Greece, confirmed the ship was hijacked by armed men on the night of August 13. He told Georgia’s TV1 that the crew was locked in a room for nine days.
The Gulf of Guinea remains among the world’s most dangerous regions for shipping crews, according to a July 2018 report from the ICC International Maritime Bureau. Of 107 piracy incidents reported in the first six months of 2018 – including four hijackings – all 25 of the crew kidnappings have occurred in the West African waters. There were 102 crew members taken hostage during the time period.
“The true number of incidents in the Gulf of Guinea is believed to be significantly higher than what is reported to the IMB PRC,” the organization said.
Outside the Gulf of Guinea, the number of 2018 incidents decreased in other piracy hotspots. There were no reported incidents recorded off the coast of Somalia in the second quarter of 2018.