The United States is investigating reports that pirates kidnapped two Americans from a U.S.-flagged ship off the coast of Nigeria in West Africa, where security has been a growing concern.
The incident involves a U.S.flagged vessel, the 222-foot C-Retriever, in the Gulf of Guinea.
“We are seeking additional information about the incident,” the State Department said.
The ship’s captain and chief engineer were abducted early Wednesday morning, according to the British security firm AKE. Rick Filon of AKE said Nigerian Central Naval Command has provided no additional information.
The ship is owned by Edison Chouest Offshore, based in Cut Off, La.
ECO supports the majority of the U.S. Gulf deepwater oil rigs and an expanding global market with a fleet of more than 200 vessels, ranging from 87 to more than 360 feet in length, according to the company website.
Maj. Robert Firman, a Pentagon spokesman, described the incident as “a piracy attack on a commercial vessel off the coast of Nig eria.”
“There is no involvement of DoD at this point,” Firman said. “It’s a maritime criminal act.”
The State Department is “closely monitoring” reports of the incident, Marie Harf, deputy spokeswoman, said on Thursday.
“Obviously our concern is their safe return,” she said. “At this point we do not have information that would indicate this was an act of terrorism.”
U.S. Navy SEALs rescued American Capt. Richard Phillips off the coast of Somalia in 2009 when he was abducted by pirates who attacked his ship, the Maersk Alabama.
But unlike the east coast of Africa, there is no international counterpiracy mission off the coast of west Africa, Firman said.
Piracy off Africa’s west coast has been a growing problem, however, according to maritime security experts.
The C-Retriever is a supply vessel for oil platforms in the Gulf of Guinea and has been working in the area since about April 2006, said Daryl Williamson, commercial development director for Lloyd’s List Intelligence.
Cyrus Mody, assistant director of the International Maritime Bureau, said incidents off the coast of Nigeria have been growing “for a number of years,” though they’ve been overshadowed by piracy off the Somali coast and “hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves,” Mody said. rochesterdemocrat.ny.newsmemory.com
2008 PHOTO BY CHRISTIAN VIA SHIPSPOTTING.COM