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Greek Oil Tanker’s Hijacking Staged, Angolan Navy Says

The reported hijacking of Greek oil tanker Kerala off the Angolan coast earlier this month was fabricated by the crew and the vessel’s owner, according to the Angolan Navy.

“The oil tanker’s crew worked in collusion with the ship’s owner,” navy spokesman Captain Augusto Alfredo Lourenco said by phone today from the capital, Luanda. “There wasn’t any hijacking, they simulated it.”

The Kerala, carrying 60,000 metric tons of diesel, was contracted to the Angolan state-run oil company Sonangol, which reported losing contact with the vessel on Jan. 19. It initially thought the tanker was hijacked by pirates.

“While it was waiting for authorization to unload the diesel in Luanda on January 18, the tanker was contacted by the tugboat Gare,” Lourenco said. “The crew of the tanker disconnected the communication system and headed toward Nigeria together with the tug,” he said. “The empty tanker was found in Nigeria.”

“There isn’t any risk of pirate attacks in Angola even though we worry about this problem in the Gulf of Guinea” to the north, Lourenco said. “We are constantly patrolling our waters.”

According to the Paramount Group, Africa’s biggest closely held defense and aerospace business, the number of pirate attacks on shipping in the Gulf of Guinea, off Africa’s west coast, may double to two attacks a day this year. More than 95 percent of Angola’s external trade is conducted via sea, according to government data.

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