The Nigerian Navy has returned Panama-flagged oil tanker MT Maximus to its owners Super Maritime Nigeria following the vessels' hijacking in February.
Panama-flagged oil tanker MT Maximus has been returned to its owners, Super Maritime Nigeria Limited (Super Maritime Nigeria), by the Nigerian Navy after the vessel was hijacked last month in the Gulf of Guinea off Abijan, Ivory Coast with the intention of stealing the 4,700 tonnes of diesel fuel that was on board, local media reports.
The alleged pirates are reported to have boarded the vessel on February 11, after which they took the ship's crew captive and renamed the vessel MT Elvis-5, having intended to sell the ship's fuel on the black market.
While the vessel was recovered about 300 nautical miles south of Lagos, near Sao Tome, it is reported that two of the 18 captured crew members are still being held by pirates, with the rest of the crew having been released and undergone questioning by the Nigerian authorities.
"The two kidnapped crew members were taken in a boat before the Nigerian Navy ship that rescued the vessel got to the scene. We do not have information of their whereabouts and the Navy has not been contacted for assistance," said Commodore Abraham Adaji, Commander of Nigerian Navy Ship Beecroft.
The alleged pirates are reported to have boarded the vessel on February 11, after which they took the ship's crew captive and renamed the vessel MT Elvis-5.
It is reported that six of the alleged pirates, as well as a so-called "key suspect," have been arrested in the case, and will be handed over to the police at the conclusion of investigation.
"The suspects arrested would be prosecuted accordingly and the ship owners have undertaken to present crew members to come and testify if they are required in the course of investigation. The release of the vessel does not signify an end to the prosecution of the pirates that are currently under investigation," explained Adaji.
"Preliminary investigations have been ongoing since February 22 in conjunction with international and civil police authorities."
Last week, Ship & Bunker reported that the latest ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre (ReCAPP) report says that there have been no incidents of tanker hijackings in Asian waters for the purpose of oil cargo theft since September 2015.