(Adds risk analyst, tanker details, background)
LONDON Dec 19 Pirates have attacked and looted
a tanker off the coast of Nigeria, taking five crew members
hostage, the ship's operating company said on Wednesday.
Medallion Marine did not give the nationalities of those
kidnapped but maritime security experts AKE said in a note to
its clients that they were all Indians.
Piracy and kidnapping in Nigeria's oil-producing Delta and
offshore are common, and the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea is second
only to the waters off Somalia for the risk of pirate attacks,
which drives up shipping insurance costs.
"On Monday the vessel (SP Brussels) was boarded by heavily
armed pirates whilst approximately 40 miles (65 km) off the
Niger Delta," Medallion Marine said in a statement.
"The pirates ransacked the vessel for personal belongings
and took five crew members with them on their departure."
Nigerian Navy officials were not available for comment.
According to a maritime tracking website, the SP Brussels is
a 7,600-tonne oil and chemical tanker.
Nigeria is a busy oil shipping route. The West African
country is among the world's top 10 crude oil exporters and
imports around 80 percent of the fuel products needed for its
160 million people due to a lack of domestic refining capacity.
AKE said on Wednesday the risk of maritime kidnapping is
currently heightened off the Niger Delta.
Gunmen kidnapped four foreigners, believed to be South
Koreans, and two Nigerians working for Korea's Hyundai Heavy
onshore the Niger Delta on Monday.
(Reporting by Jonathan Saul; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by