Pirates kidnap 14 from heavy lift ship off Sao Tomé

Zhen Hua 7 (Photo: MarineTraffic.com/Vera Zec Deskovic)

Praesidium International reports that 14 sailors have been abducted by pirates from a heavy lift vessel in the Gulf of Guinea 75 nautical miles northwest of Sao Tomé and Principe on Friday, November 13.

The Chinese-operated, Liberian-flagged semi-submersible heavy lift vessel Zhen Hua 7, which has been drifting off Sao Tomé and Principe since mid-October, was boarded by an unidentified group of armed men at approximately 15:00 UTC on Friday.

Only 13 of Zhen Hua 7‘s 27-strong crew were able to reach the safety of the ship’s citadel following the unauthorised boarding. The pirates then took the 14 other crew hostage as they left the area, their current whereabouts unknown.

Although local authorities became immediately aware of the boarding, they only learned of the kidnapping of some of the crew after it had reportedly been confirmed by Chinese sources on Saturday, November 14.

Two ships from the Spanish and Portuguese navies have since been deployed to the area to escort the heavy lift vessel and to attempt to locate any trace of the pirates and the kidnapped crew.

Meanwhile, Praesidium has reported that Zhen Hua 7 has once again begun sailing under its own power. The vessel’s AIS track as of Saturday shows that it is heading towards Sao Tomé Island.

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