The Ghana Navy announced it freed a tanker that was hijacked off the coast of Nigeria and arrested eight pirates believed to be responsible for seizing it.
Pirate attacks have increased in West Africa in recent years, raising insurance costs for shipping companies. Experts say gangs based in the waters off Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer, are extending their reach across the Gulf of Guinea.
Col. Aggrey Quarshie would not say when pirates seized the MT Mariam, but news reports stated it was freed on January 17, 2015. The small tanker’s owners, using an onboard tracking device, informed Ghanaian authorities of the ship’s position in Ghanaian waters.
The Daily Guide reported that a Navy patrol team onboard the GNS Blika, a patrol vessel, followed the oil tanker to 26 nautical miles offshore. Ghana officers then boarded it and apprehended the suspects in two groups, as they hid in the engine and cargo compartments.
“The Ghana Navy responded swiftly with a patrol team to the area, and they were able to overpower the pirates and free the ship,” Quarshie told Reuters. “But when they got there, the cargo had already been transferred to another vessel.” The ship’s crew members were unharmed, Quarshie added.
The armed pirates, all thought to be Nigerians, were arrested and handed over to Ghana’s Bureau of National Investigations. Recovered items included cash, four AK-47 rifles, additional magazine cartridges, digital cameras and mobile phones, The Daily Guide reported.
Quarshie said Ghana’s Navy and other forces from Benin, Nigeria and Togo had launched a search for the ship carrying the stolen cargo.