Offshore services firm Bourbon has confirmed that two crewmembers of the OSV Bourbon Liberty 251 were kidnapped in a pirate attack off the coast of Nigeria on February 23.
The seafarers, one Nigerian and one Russian, were taken from the vessel; the remaining ten crewmembers were able to return the Liberty safely to the port of Onne, near Port Harcourt.
Bourbon said that it was in contact with the families of the two individuals, and will issue updates as the situation unfolds.
In April 2015, three crewmembers were kidnapped from Bourbon's light crewboat Surfer 1440; they were released in May. Unofficial reports suggest that a ransom was paid to secure their safe return.
Kidnappings in hijacking incidents off the coast of Nigeria are on the rise, with incidents including the pirate attacks on the tankers Leon Dias and Maximus. Consultants PGI Intelligence suspect that declining revenue from stolen oil is giving Niger Delta militants an incentive to resort to kidnapping over other forms of piracy, like cargo theft.
Separately, Nigerian Chief of Naval Staff Real Admiral Ibok Ete Ekwe Ibas issued a general warning to militants in the Niger Delta to cease pipeline bombings, which have increased recently amid rising tension in the region, and to refrain from kidnappings.
He told Nigeria’s Punch news outlet that he wants to “warn those involved in what I describe as economic sabotage to desist forthwith as the Navy would not hesitate to swoop on the perpetrators and their sponsors no matter how highly placed.”
“The Navy will continue to carry out its constitutional duties in ensuring that the maritime space in Nigeria is safe and secured . . . Our mandate has always been to ensure that our waterways are free from all encumbrances,” he said, noting that naval forces in Port Harcourt had recently taken delivery of an additional 25 gunboats for patrols in the Delta – with more on the way soon.