French navy escorts tanker in Gulf of Guinea after hijackers abandon ship

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) -The French navy on Friday escorted a tanker to port in the Gulf of Guinea after pirates abandoned the vessel and kidnapped some of the crew, the ship’s owner told Reuters.

The Liberian-flagged oil and chemical tanker Monjasa Reformer with 16 crew members was last weekend hijacked by five armed assailants 140 miles west of the Republic of Congo’s Port Pointe-Noire.

The hijackers abandoned the ship late on Thursday but took some crew members with them, Danish shipping company Monjasa, which owns the vessel, said on Friday.

“We have our vessel secured. We have our crew members secured on board, or part of the crew members. So right now we are being escorted by the French Navy,” Chief Operating Officer Svend Stenberg Molholt said in an interview.

The rescued crew members are all in good health, and will be brought back to Lome, Togo, Molholt said. The company did not say how many crew members were missing.

The company is still waiting to be contacted by the kidnappers and is working with external experts to establish different scenarios for when that happens, he said.

There was no damage reported to the ship or its cargo, Monjasa said.

(Reporting by Louise Breusch Rasmussen, Filks Ilze, editing by Terje Solsvik, Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Giles Elgood)