The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency and two specialized Navy teams have launched a search and rescue mission for 12 crew members taken hostage from a Swiss cargo ship off the coast of Lagos on Saturday.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, safety agency Director General Dakuku Peterside said he "will not leave any stone unturned" as rescuers work alongside the Nigerian Navy and several other security agencies, spokesman Isichei Osamgbi said in a statement.
"The issue of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is a challenge we acknowledge and we are determined to tackle it head-on," Peterside said.
"We will continue to collaborate with the Nigerian Navy and other relevant partners to ensure we bring it to a halt. Zero tolerance to piracy and all forms of illegalities on our nation's waterways is our goal," he said.
The kidnapped crew members — 12 of 19 aboard the MV Glarus — were abducted by a gang of pirates as they were transporting wheat from Lagos to Port Harcourt sailing through the Gulf of Guinea.
The marauders climbed onto the ship using "long ladders and cut the razor wire on deck to gain access to the vessel and eventually the bridge," the vessel's operator, Massoel Shipping told AFP in a statement, the BBC reported. The invaders also destroyed nearly all of the ship's communications equipment.
Patrick Adamson, a spokesman for the Geneva-based company, said it was the second largest number of people taken from a ship in the oil-rich delta of the coast of Nigeria this year, the BBC reported.
It is unusual for pirates to make contact in the first 48 hours, Adamson added, explaining that the company has yet to receive any ransom instructions.
Seven of the crew members are from the Philippines, along with one each from Slovenia, Ukraine, Romania, Croatia and Bosnia, Reuters reported.
Nigerian Navy spokesman, Ayo Olugbode told CNN that Interpol is also involved in the search and rescue operations.
"We are speaking with the remaining crew members to know what measures were taken during the attack. For instance, the captain and the ship's crew are to go into the citadel of the ship when they are being attacked. We want to know if all these steps were taken during the incident," Olugbode told CNN.
While the number of overall piracy and robbery incidents in the waters of the Gulf of Guinea remained relatively unchanged between 2016 and 2017, the region remains a dangerous hotbed of pirate activity, according a report by the nongovernmental agency, Oceans Beyond Piracy.
According to the NGO:
"One hundred seafarers were taken hostage in 2017, 90 of whom were held for longer than one day and at least two of whom were killed. ... In only one incident did naval forces arrive on the scene in time to prevent the attackers from getting away with hostages or goods. This was also the only incident to result in the arrest of attackers in 2017."
The report noted that the dominant motive was to collect ransom, rather than steal cargo.
"The navy has been really successful in rescue attempts," Maisie Pigeon, project manager for One Earth Future told NPR, adding that West African regional and naval law enforcement spending reached $33 million in 2017. She said that's up from $19.8 million in 2016. One Earth Future oversaw the Oceans Beyond Piracy project.
The International Chamber of Commerce's International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre recorded 66 attacks against ships during the first quarter of 2018, up from 43 for the same period in 2017. Additionally, "of the 114 seafarers captured worldwide, all but one" was in the Gulf of Guinea.