Pirates Hijack U.K. Ship Off West Africa and Take Hostages

Pirates hijacked a U.K.-flagged merchant ship off West Africa and seized three members of its crew as hostages before departing, said Carisbrooke Shipping Ltd., the vessel’s operator.

The Esther C was boarded yesterday evening in international waters in the Gulf of Guinea, Cowes, England-based Carisbrooke said in a statement distributed today by e-mail by MTI Network. The ship carries general cargo and has a capacity of 8,063 deadweight tons, the company’s website shows.

The vessel is back under the captain’s command and the remaining nine crew members are reported to be safe, according to the statement. The ship called at ports in Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea before the attack, vessel-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg show.

“The safety and well-being of these seafarers is the company’s absolute priority and all possible steps to secure their return are being taken,” Carisbrooke said in the statement, referring to the hostages.

The closely held company has 71 ships, of which 32 are flagged in the U.K. according to its website and figures from IHS Fairplay, a provider of maritime data.

The largest oil tankers operating in the region, which haul loads of more than 2 million barrels of crude, are more than 35 times bigger than the seized vessel.

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