LAGOS – Nigerian sailors rescued a hijacked oil tanker in a dramatic night-time rescue in which they killed one pirate, the Nigerian navy announced as it escorted the ship into Lagos harbor Monday.
The Panama-flagged Maximus, owned by a company in the United Arab Emirates and on lease to a South Korean shipping company, steamed in with four captured hijackers from Nigeria and Ghana and the crew of 18 from India, Pakistan, China, South Korea, Sudan and Ghana, said Rear Adm. Henry Babalola.
He said the navy is still searching for two crew taken hostage by two hijackers who escaped in a pirate vessel. The Indian defense attache, Capt. Gautam Marwaha, said one hostage is Indian and the other is believed to be Pakistani. He said they have received no ransom demand.
The bandits were after the ship’s 4,700 tons of diesel fuel when they seized it Feb. 11 off the coast of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, the navy said. The ship was rescued Saturday night about 310 miles (500 km) southwest of Lagos.
It’s the third time in five years that the ship has been hijacked in the Gulf of Guinea area, according to two maritime ship-tracking websites. The last time, in 2014 when it was called the SP Brussels, one crew member and two pirates were killed and six captured after a shootout with the Nigerian navy just outside anchorage in Lagos, Nigeria’s Atlantic Ocean-side commercial center.
Babalola, who commanded Saturday’s rescue, described a tense standoff as the pirates denied the ship was the Maximus, calling it instead the MT Elvis 3, as they had hand-painted over the name in white. “We tried diplomacy, but they refused to surrender,” Babalola said. Sailors stormed the ship when one pirate opened fire, taking special care because the vessel is highly flammable, he said.