Three of the four kidnapped crew members of the oil tanker Elka Aristotle have been released, however, the fourth crew member, a Filipino national has died, European Products Carriers Ltd., managers of the Greek-flagged vessel, informed.
“A full investigation is underway into the situation, but it is understood that his demise was not as a result of any actions by those holding the crew hostage but due to illness,” the company added.
The three released crew members have undergone medical checks and are reported to be well.
They were being debriefed by the local authorities prior to returning home to the Philippines, Greece, and Georgia respectively.
The tanker was boarded by armed pirates on November 4, 2019 while anchored near the West African port of Lome, Togo.
The incident occurred only two days after nine crew members were taken hostage from a bulk carrier off Cotonou, Benin. The anchored vessel was boarded by perpetrators while it was waiting for berth to discharge cargo.
The seas around West Africa have been characterized as the world’s most dangerous for piracy, amid rampant kidnapping incidents over the recent period. Specifically, in the first nine months of 2019, the region accounted for 86% of the 49 crew taken hostage and 82% of the 70 crew kidnapped globally.
The trend has, unfortunately, resumed with at least four ships attacked in the region over the past month.
Seafarer unions and other industry bodies have been urging relevant authorities to allocate all necessary assets to the region in order to eliminate piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and protect the seafarers sailing through the region.