Nigerian Navy (NN) personnel drawn from Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Benin and NNS Ikot-Abasi, have rescued a distressed oil tanker, MT SP Brussels at the Lagos anchorage, killing two of the pirates who had hitherto hijacked the vessel and killed two crew members.
This is just as THISDAY checks revealed that the naval authorities, who also rescued 15 out of the 17 crew members and the two police escorts onboard, are yet to release the vessel in its custody to the vessel’s agent, Super Maritime Nigeria Limited.
Brussels with International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and MMSI numbers 9387164 and 538003624 respectively, is an oil tanker registered in Marshall Islands with a length and beam of 118 and 18 metres respectively.
With its call sign reading as V7MI7, the 35 gross tonnage vessel and 14 metric tonnes container capacity of products, had last communicated its position on April 11, when it was at UTC terrestrial heading to its destination at Lagos offshore when it was hijacked.
It was gathered that the oil-laden vessel was accosted at about 120 nautical miles outside Lagos waters, en route from Port Harcourt, by eight heavily armed pirates who overtook them in two speed boats
While two of the pirates remained on each of the speedboats to man it, six others boarded the oil tanker vessel and in an exchange of gun fire with the two police escorts attached to the vessel, shot dead two of the crew members; an Indian and the Captain.
It was gathered that after the pirates had successfully disarmed the police and taken possession of the vessel, the frightened crew members made up of Indians, Pakistanis and Ghanaians had fled to the Citadel (a place to hide for safety on board ships) to hide.
However, immediately the pirates searched the vessel and discovered it devoid of human life, they went straight to the Citadel and brought them out. The pirates set sail to go offload the stolen products onboard the vessel, but unfortunately, the NN had gotten wind of the attack and gave them pursuit.
Both naval vessels had cut off the escape route by the pirates and a gun duel ensued but the navy had the upper hand with the level of weapon handling and marksmanship gained from their frequent Small Arms Firing Exercise (SAFEX) trainings.