Wednesday, September 22, 2010

French Seamen Kidnapped In Pirate Raid Off Nigeria

Oil Field Attack on Support Vessel
Shipping News Feature

NIGERIA – FRANCE - In a night time attack by pirates on the offshore oilfield Addax, three French crew of the ATHS (Anchor Handling Tug Supply) vessel Bourbon Alexandre were taken by force leaving the remaining thirteen crewmen aboard at the time unharmed but shaken. No ransom has been demanded at the time of going to press according to the vessels owners, Bourbon Offshore.

In the early hours of this morning the Bourbon Alexandre was attacked by several small speedboats holding an armed gang. The attack comes only a week after more French nationals were seized in Niger, a crime claimed by Al Qaeda's North African wing which resulted in a total of seven kidnap victims, five of them French. This latest attack is more likely to be by an apolitical criminal gang which has ventured into maritime crime.

Bourbon has a crisis unit in Marseille which is coordinating a response with their opposite numbers in Nigeria and the authorities in both countries. The company has faced a similar situation in the past, in 2008 they had 10 crewmen seized off the Cameroon coast, a kidnap resolved satisfactorily when the captured men were released ten days later.

Most of the newsworthy pirate attacks on shipping off the Somali coast, in the Gulf of Aden and elsewhere have been on freight vessels such as container ships and slow moving bulk tankers but the 120 tonne ATHS would be easier to board if kidnap as opposed to seizure of the vessel plus cargo was your motive. Bourbon manages a rapidly expanding fleet of almost four hundred such support vessels operating from bases around the world, principally in oil exploration and recovery areas.

Photo: The Bourbon Arcadie (sister ship of the captured vessel) courtesy of Bourbon Offshore