Pirates have seized an oil tanker off the Nigerian coast, kidnapping its Ukrainian captain and a Greek engineer, the ship's manager and the Greek coast guard confirmed Tuesday.
The Marshall Islands-flagged MT Althea, with 18 crew aboard, was attacked late Monday about 35 miles offshore of the Niger River delta, The Associated Press reports quoting officials.
"They kidnapped the two men but did not touch the cargo (oil) or injure anyone," an official who asked not to be named told AP.
"The armed pirates fled with the two hostages in a speedboat, the source said."
"The Nigerian navy is investigating, a spokesman said."
"Pirate attacks off Nigeria have jumped by a third this year as ships passing through West Africa's Gulf of Guinea, a major commodities route, have come under threat from gangs wanting to snatch cargoes and crews."
While acts of piracy against commercial vessels have fallen off around the Horn of Africa in recent years, there has been a marked increase on the opposite side of the continent, especially in the same general area that the Althea was attacked.
The AP notes:
"Unlike the waters off Somalia on the east African coast, where ships now speed through with armed guards on board, there is little protection for many vessels which have to anchor off West African countries to do business."
Last month, pirates in the Niger Delta area released a crew from a U.S.-flagged vessel after holding them for a month.