Chemical tanker Pantelena was hijacked, captain says

Pantelena and its 19 crew members were seized in pirate-plagued waters off Gabon in West Africa in the early hours of 14 August. Credit: FotoFlite
Pantelena and its 19 crew members were seized in pirate-plagued waters off Gabon in West Africa in the early hours of 14 August. Credit: FotoFlite

The master of a Greek-owned chemical tanker that went missing en route to Gabon was captured and held by pirates.

The Georgian captain, Lasha Gadelia, told Georgian television that 2006-built 10,726 dwt tanker Pantelena was seized in the early hours of 14 August.

“At that moment, my assistant was steering the vessel. They threatened him with firearms, and after that the tanker was hijacked,” Gadelia said.

He said the pirates locked the crew in a cabin, where they were held for nine days.

“The pirates did no physical harm to the crew and gave them food and water from time to time,” Gadelia continued.

At the time Pantelena lost contact with its owner, Lotus Shipping, the vessel was on the way to Libreville, Gabon. It disappeared from radar screens 74 km from Owendo, sparking fears because of the increasing scourge of West African piracy.

The ship and its crew, comprising 17 Georgians and 2 Russians, were released on 23 August, but Gadelia did not elaborate under what circumstances. Pantelena was subsequently spotted off the Repuiblic of the Congo.

The International Maritime Bureau has flagged the Gulf of Guinea as an area of concern, as pirates have hijacked vessels in that location for their cargoes or for ransom.

In the first six months of 2018, the number of reported pirate attacks and attempted attacks in West Africa more than doubled to 46 incidents from 20 cases in the first half of 2017. Worldwide, the number of reported attacks and attempted attacks rose from 87 in the first six months of 2017 to 107 in the first half of 2018.

The Russian embassy in Gabon told Russian news agency TASS that the Russian crew members were in good condition and had contacted their families.

“The issue of returning them to their homeland as soon as possible is now being studied,” the embassy said.

The embassy said Pantelena is now anchored in Lome, Togo, and that the crew remained on board the vessel.