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Crew of Boxship Mozart Freed by Pirates Weeks After Brutal Attack

hijacked crew freed in Nigeria
Mozart at the time of her acquisition by Boden Maritime, 2019 (Boden Maritime)

Published Feb 12, 2021 12:35 PM by The Maritime Executive

The crew of the boxship Mozart who were kidnapped in a brutal attack in the Gulf of Guinea two weeks ago have been freed. According to a statement from the ship’s manager Borealis Maritime, the 15 Turkish citizens are all safe in Nigeria and will be returning home as soon as arrangements can be completed.

The attack on the Mozart occurred on January 23 while she was sailing from Lagos, Nigeria to Cape Town, South Africa. Reports at the time said that the assault was an unusually well-coordinated effort with the pirates boarding the ship and able to breach the vessel’s citadel. During the assault, one crew member, an Azerbaijani engineer, was killed. The pirates also caused damage aboard the ship including destroying bridge equipment.

The pirates departed the boxship taking 15 members of the crew hostage and leaving three to navigate the ship to port in Gabon. The Turkish shipowner, Boden Denizcilik, reported that it had quickly been able to contact with the kidnappers and confirmed that the crew was unharmed. They retained the services of a negotiator to obtain the freedom of the crew.

“We offer our congratulations and thanks to our officers and crew, and their families for the strength, trust and patience they have shown during this ordeal,” Borealis said in its joint statement with Boden. “We would like to thank the Turkish and Nigerian Governments and their officers and agencies, the wider Borealis community on land and at sea, and all those who have helped us resolve this situation, for their support throughout this difficult three weeks.”

The shipowner and operator also extended their condolences saying that their thoughts remain with the crew member who lost his life in the attack. The three crew members who brought the vessel to a safe port were complimented for their courage and discipline.

The brutal nature of the attack and the death of one crew member brought swift condemnation and additional calls for action to increase safety in the region. Authorities reportedly increased patrols but additional boardings and attempts at assaults in the region have continued. Reuters is reporting that the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Turkish TV, “We must learn a lesson from this and work together to make sure this doesn’t happen again.” Turkey, which has other citizens working on the ships kidnapped in the Gulf of Guinea,  also sent representatives to the region to discuss the need to improve security.

A spokesperson for the Istanbul-based shipping company also appeared on TV confirming the health and safety of the crew but declining to offer details on the ransom that was believed to have been paid to free the crew. He called for action by the United Nations and International Maritime Organization to address the piracy threat in the region.

Borealis Maritime said that it would issue a further statement when the crew is home and safely reunited with their families.