Norwegian shipowning JJ Ugland Companies claimed on Monday that it was doing doing its “utmost” to bring nine of its Filipino crew members to safety, after the bulk cargo ship on which they were working was boarded by pirates off Cotonou, Benin during the weekend. The company confirmed that the captain of the Ugland bulker MV Bonita is among those abducted by the pirates.
Ugland reported that the bulker was anchored and waiting to berth and unload a cargo of gypsum when the pirates attacked “very early Saturday morning.” State broadcaster NRK reported that it’s the latest in a string of attacks on vessels off West Africa in recent years, according to the vessel’s insurer DNK (Den norske Krigsforsikring for Skib).
Ugland, based in Grimstad on Norway’s southern coast, refused interviews “in the interest of the well-being of the crew members.” The company reported on its own website, however, that the Ugland Emergency Response Team was handling the situation and “in contact with the relevant autorities.”
For more on Ugland and status reports on the piracy, click here (external link to the company’s website).
The company also stated that the families of the crew members have been contacted in the Philippines and would “be gathered as soon as possible.” It’s widely believed that the nine crew members working for Ugland are being held hostage and likely to demand ransom payments.
Crew members who escaped the pirates and remained on board the vessel were reportedly “being cared for” and were in “good condition despite the circumstances.”
NRK reported that insurer DNK was working with Ugland in attempts to resolve what amounts to a mass kidnapping involving a Norwegian ship. “We are cooperating with the rederiet (shipowning company) to find a solution,” Svein Ringbakken, chief executive of DNK, told NRK. The Norwegian shipowners’ national federation (Norges Rederiforbund) was also following the situation.
Norway’s foreign ministry confirmed that it was aware of the piracy against a Norwegian ship but was not directly involved since the crew members are not Norwegian citizens.