Pirates have kidnapped seven crew members, six Russians and one Estonian, during an attack on a ship, the Liberty 249, off the coast of Nigeria. The ship is owned by Bourborn, a French company that supplies vessels to the Nigerian offshore oil industry.
According to Al Jazeera, Bourbon, in a statement, confirmed that "seven crew members ... were kidnapped during the boarding of the Bourbon Liberty 249, which occurred on October 15, 2012 in Nigeria. The other nine crew members are still on-board the vessel which is heading for the Port of Onne. They are safe and sound, and in good health."
Bourbon did not disclose the location of the ship at the time it was attacked. But it said the attack occurred on Monday and that an emergency unit has been set up to find the missing sailors. The company said: "The emergency unit has been set up to aim at their rapid liberation under the safest security conditions."
The BBC reports that in recent months, there has been an increase in pirate attacks on cargo ships off the West African Gulf of Guinea. The region is second only to the coast of Somalia in the incidence of piracy.
The International Maritime Bureau says there have been 17 reported cases of pirate attacks in the first six months of this year in Nigeria's coastal waters.
Reuters reports that the pirate gangs operating off the Nigerian coast are mostly offshoots of militant groups that embraced the Nigerian government's amnesty program under the late President Umaru Musa Yar' Adua, in 2009.
The pirates board boats and steal their cargo, after which the crew are usually released. However, kidnapping has also become rampant in the Niger Delta coast, Reuters reports.
This is not the first time pirates have attacked a vessel that belongs to Bourborn off the coast of Nigeria. Pirates kidnapped three French crewmen from a Bourborn-owned ship in a Nigerian offshore oilfield in 2010. But the men were released soon after.
Recently, pirates also attacked a Greek-owned ship with a crew of over 20 off the coast of Togo, West Africa. They stole 3,000 tonnes of fuel but released the crew and ship.