Three crewmembers kidnapped from a bulker off the coast of Gabon in West Africa have been released after approximately three weeks in captivity.
The shipping company Eagle Bulk and the government of the Republic of Georgia both confirmed the release of the sailors with Georgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reporting “their health condition is satisfactory.”
The three individuals, believed to be the Russian captain and two Georgians who were first and second mate, were aboard the Grebe Bulker (registered in the Marshall Islands) operated by Eagle Bulk Shipping when they were abducted on May 2. The 57,800 dwt bulker was reported to be waiting in the Owendo Anchorage off Gabon for her next assignment at the time. Few details have been released on the circumstances of the incident but reports said the other crewmembers had searched the vessel and discovered the three individuals missing reporting the incident to local authorities.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia said that the Maritime Transport Agency along with the Embassy of Georgia in South Africa had coordinated the attempts to free the crewmembers. They reported that they had worked closely with both the ship’s owners and the crewing company without providing details on the release. The kidnappers typically receive ransom payments in exchange for the release.
Eagle Bulk thanked everyone who had been involved and the crewmembers for their “strength and fortitude” during the 18 days in captivity. The authorities in Georgia reported that the crew had received medical examinations in Nigeria and that Eagle Bulk would be paying for their reparations. The crewmembers are expected to return home “in the next few days.”
The vessel had been in Lagos and later Port Harcourt, Nigeria before proceeding to the anchorage off Gabon. Her AIS signal shows she departed two weeks after the kidnappings and is now bound for Singapore.
The release of the Grebe Bulker’s crew comes two weeks after Danish fuel supplier Monjasa reported that it had also been able to secure the release of six crewmembers taken from its vessel the Monjasa Reformer. That vessel was boarded while sitting idle approximately 140 nautical miles off Port Pointe-Noire, Congo on March 25. It was believed they were being held in Nigeria according to the French Navy which located the missing vessel after a search that had lasted for days in the Gulf of Guinea.
These two incidents came as the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre said that incidents overall were recorded at the lowest level of global piracy and armed robbery since 1993. They received reports of 27 incidents in the first quarter of 2023 down from 37 a year earlier. They however said in 24 instances the vessels were successfully boarded while calling for vigilance and further efforts to keep piracy in check.