/ 5 December 2008

Gunmen attack vessels in Nigeria’s restive delta

Gunmen attacked two oil-services vessels in separate incidents in Nigeria’s restive Niger Delta on Thursday, kidnapping a Russian, a Mexican and seven Nigerians, security sources working in the industry said.

The vessel Oceanic Orion was attacked 13 nautical miles off the coast of Akwa Ibom state near a crude oil rig operated by Canada’s Addax Petroleum, the security sources told Reuters, asking not to be named.

The two expatriates and one Nigerian were taken.

”It’s the sixth time this year that OML 123 has been attacked,” one of the sources said, referring to the 370 square kilometre licence area, Addax’s largest by reserves and production.

Addax officials were not immediately available to comment.

The second vessel, Tiger Fish, which belongs to Hercules Offshore, was hijacked around the Sombreiro River area and six of its crew were kidnapped. The captors were demanding a three million naira ransom, one source said.

One person was killed in a separate attack by gunmen on a convoy from the local unit of US oil firm ExxonMobil.

Piracy is common in the Gulf of Guinea off Nigeria’s Atlantic coast while attacks on oil industry facilities and kidnappings for ransom are frequent in the creeks of the Niger Delta, home to Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry.

The insecurity has cut Nigeria’s oil output, which averages about two million barrels per day (bpd), by a fifth over the past three years. — Reuters