China Urges Nigeria To Protect Bulker After Attack

China has asked Nigeria to send armed police to protect a bulk carrier off Lagos, after the vessel’s Chinese master and a member of the crew were killed in a pirate attack in mid-February.

“We urge Nigeria to send armed police to protect the crew and the vessel, and try to catch and punish the murderers as soon as possible,” said Hong Lei, a spokesman with China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The 29,700 dwt Fourseas SW was attacked by eight pirates about 110 miles off Lagos on February 13, while carrying 27,000 tonnes of rice from India to Nigeria. Two crew, including the Chinese master, were shot dead while several other seafarers suffered minor injuries.

The Panama-flagged vessel, which had 21 crew on board, was saved by naval forces near by and is still waiting to discharge at the port of Lagos.

Chen Muchuan, a spokesman for the vessel’s Taiwan-based owner Shih Wei Navigation, told Lloyd’s List: “From our understanding, the pirates didn’t try to hijack the vessel. They wanted money and took away a safety box and two laptops.”

Piracy has become rampant in West African, with at least 20 piracy incidents last year reported in Benin, west of Nigeria, up from none the year before. Industry anti-piracy watchdog the International Maritime Bureau has warned that Benin could become a hotspot to rival Somalia.

Unlike their Somali counterparts, West African pirates tend to be more interested in valuable cargoes than in hijacking ships.

Taiwan has often struggled to join international counter-piracy efforts, as it is not a member of the UN due to opposition from Beijing. However, China, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan, has sometimes sought to show its friendlier side, intervening to defend Taiwanese shipowners when incidents occur.

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