Twenty-three Russians aboard tanker seized by pirates off Togo

Twenty-three Russians abroad a British-flagged oil tanker have been seized by pirates in Togo's territorial waters.

"The Greek ship owner has reported that there are 23 Russian citizens aboard the ship and one Greek citizen, the captain. The ship owner got in touch with the captain shortly after the attack to learn that the crew's lives are not in danger," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Energy Centurion oil tanker, sailing under the flag of the Isle of Man, Britain, was seized by pirates in Togo's territorial waters.

"The Russian Embassy in Benin and Togo said the Togolese coast guard chased the tanker, but failed to catch up. The ship sailed into the territorial waters of Benin and onward towards Nigeria. According to the Russian Embassy in Abuja, the ship is not in Nigerian territorial waters now. It is in international waters at a long distance from Nigeria," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Updated reports arriving from British partners indicate that no hostages were seized. It was an attack to steal fuel (there are 50,000 tonnes of diesel fuel and gasoline aboard the ship.)

"Russian embassies in the region are taking all necessary measures to ensure the security of the Russian crew in contact with local law enforcement services," it said.

The Russian Sailors Union has reported that there are 24 Russian crew members abroad the ship.

"The crew of the Energy Centurion, owned by Greece's Golden Energy management, includes 24 Russian sailors from Novorossiisk. They were hired by the Alfa Marine Crew Services agency in Novorossiisk," the trade union said.

No information is available so far whether the crew was hired under a collective agreement and whether the sailors were informed they would enter a zone where pirates are active.

The ship had been sailing to Lome, where an American-Togolese conference on the fight against piracy was being held. Thirty-two attacks were carried out on ships in the Gulf of Guinea this year and five ships have been hijacked. Twenty-five ships were attacked last year, according to the trade union.

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