Captain of Missing Greek Oil Tanker Insists Vessel Was Hijacked

Captain of Missing Greek Oil Tanker Insists Vessel Was Hijacked

An official at the tanker's Athens-based operators, Dynacom Tankers Management, said the captain of the Liberian-flagged oil tanker MT Kerala had submitted his report, sticking to the claim that the vessel was hijacked at anchorage in the Angolan capital Luanda.

LUANDA, Angola -- The captain of a Greek-operated oil tanker that vanished from Angola but later surfaced in Nigerian waters insists the vessel was hijacked, despite the Angolan navy's denial, the operators said today.

An official at the tanker's Athens-based operators, Dynacom Tankers Management, said the captain of the Liberian-flagged oil tanker MT Kerala had submitted his report, sticking to the claim that the vessel was hijacked at anchorage in the Angolan capital Luanda.

"The captain gave his statement, and it's pretty clear that it was an act of piracy," said the official, who asked not to be named.

The Angolan navy has accused the Greek company of faking the hijacking, insisting there is no piracy on Angola's waters.

Interpol, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and the Liberian flag operators are now involved in the investigation, but not Nigeria.

"We are waiting for the (Liberian) flag's report," said the Dynacom official.

The Kerala had on Jan. 18 just loaded a shipment of diesel belonging to a subsidiary of Angola's state oil firm Sonangol when it went off the radar.

It is now back in Luanda waters, where it has been handed over to authorities.

12,000 Tons of Diesel Stolen

Sonangol officials said 12,000 tons of diesel worth $8 million had been stolen, and the rest of the cargo -- about 78% of it -- had been recovered but was now unusable.

The Dynacom official confirmed that 12,000 tons of diesel had been stolen.

Sonangol has chartered the MT Kerala since 2009. Its contract was due to end on Feb. 12.

The Kerala carried a crew of 27 Indians and Filipinos.

Maritime security experts said if confirmed, the hijacking would signal a spread of piracy.

Despite a devastating civil war from 1975 to 2002, Angola is one of Africa's fastest-developing economies, thanks to its oil resources.

Angola is the second-largest oil producer in Africa after Nigeria, where crude oil theft is a problem, but has so far been spared the piracy woes dogging the west African oil giant.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014

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