Nigeria pirates hijack oil tanker near Lagos

LAGOS Wed Sep 5, 2012 11:31am BST

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LAGOS (Reuters) - Pirates have hijacked an oil tanker and its crew in the waters near Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos, the navy and a security company said on Wednesday.

The vessel, called the Abu Dhabi Star, was seized on Tuesday night, around 14 nautical miles from the entrance to Lagos port, navy spokesman Kabir Aliyu told Reuters, adding that the crew members had hidden in a room on the ship.

Security firm AKE said the boat was Singapore owned.

"Reports claim the tanker was laden with fuel and is now sailing into the Gulf of Guinea, which suggests that some or all of its cargo will be offloaded into a waiting vessel and subsequently sold on the region's illegal fuel market," an official at the company told Reuters.

Piracy offshore of Nigeria and other countries in West Africa's oil-rich Gulf of Guinea is on the increase, and the region is second only to the waters off Somalia for the risk of pirate attacks, which drives up shipping insurance costs.

It nets huge sums for armed gangs from stolen cargo, although unlike their Somali counterparts they rarely ask for ransoms, releasing crew as soon as they've looted the vessel.

A Greek-operated oil tanker seized off Togo at the end of last month was tracked down on Wednesday off the coast of Nigeria under the control of pirates. AKE said some 3,000 tonnes of gas oil, worth around $3 million (1.8 million pounds) at market value, was stolen.

(Reporting by Joe Brock and Jonathan Saul in London; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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