Kidnapped crew of Mozart boxship freed

Fifteen seafarers of Turkish nationality, who were kidnapped back in January from their containership MV Mozart in the Gulf of Guinea, have been rescued, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed.

The containership was boarded on January 23 while underway from Lagos to Cape Town, approximately 98 nautical miles northwest of Sao Tome.

One seafarer, of Azeri origin, was shot dead in the incident after a group of pirates breached into the citadel on board the vessel where the seafarers had hidden.

The ship had a total of 19 crew members on board, and three were left on board Mozart after the pirates departed.

The attack was described as one of the most violent ones due to its severity.

Hapag-Lloyd, the vessel operator, said that the pirates destroyed parts of the bridge, and that the vessel was unable to continue her voyage without significant delay.

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Following the incident, the ministry formed a working group for the rescue of their citizens which has been working in close cooperation with the embassies in the region, the owner of the ship, and a delegation of relevant institutions dispatched to Gabon following the attack.

In early February, Turkish media reported that the Istanbul-based Boden Denizcilik, owner of the ship, had made contact with crew members of its container vessel. The company said that all fifteen seafarers were well, uninjured, and together.

“Since the beginning of this week, significant progress has been achieved as a result of the effective coordination and cooperation of all our institutions and the intense efforts of the shipowner to release our citizens,” the ministry said on February 12.

The seafarers were released on Friday, and have since undergone medical checks, with the aim of transferring them from Nigeria to Turkey as soon as possible.

Reuters reported that the seafarers arrived at the Istanbul Airport on Sunday where they were welcomed by the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and other officials.

As disclosed, the seafarers were held captive in a forest and were under constant psychological pressure amid threats that they would be killed if the company fails to meet the pirates’ conditions.

The crew was released at a safe point after the company paid the ransom, according to the seafarers’ accounts.

A total of 135 crew were kidnapped from their vessels in 2020, with the Gulf of Guinea accounting for over 95% of crew numbers kidnapped, the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said.

A record 130 crew members were kidnapped in 22 separate incidents, as the GoG experiences an unprecedented rise in the number of crew kidnappings since 2019.