LIMBOJ, Cameroon – Eight crew members of a Greek-flagged tanker ship have been freed more than 20 days after being kidnapped by gunmen off the coast of Cameroon in West Africa, Greece’s merchant marine ministry said Wednesday.
The crew had been kidnapped by pirates on Dec. 31 from the Happy Lady tanker, which had been lying at anchor two nautical miles (2.3 miles, 3.7 kilometers) outside the port of Limboh.
The ministry said the eight, including five Greeks ranging in age from 21 to 45, had been freed in the early hours of Wednesday after “the successful end of negotiations.”
The five Greeks, including the ship’s captain, were in good health and in a safe location, and would be returning home after undergoing medical checks, the ministry said.
There has been a spike in the number of incidents of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, with a recent report by the International Maritime Bureau noting a 50% increase in piracy in the area last year. The region accounted for more than 90% of global crew member kidnappings in 2019. The Greek merchant fleet is one of the largest in the world and several incidents have involved Greek owned or flagged ships.