COTONOU — Pirates seized an Italian tanker with a crew of 23 off Benin in the Gulf of Guinea Sunday, the Benin navy said.
Navy commander Maxime Ahoyo told AFP that after receiving distress signals from the vessel, the navy sent two patrol boats in pursuit of the pirates.
“We are closely monitoring the situation,” he added.
Earlier, the Italian news agency ANSA first reported the capture of the Rbd Anema e Core and its crew comprising 20 Filipino seamen, two Italians and a Romanian captain.
It said three pirates managed to board the ship, which was carrying fuel, 23 nautical miles south of Cotonou, the economic capital of Benin.
Italy’s foreign ministry said its crisis unit was in touch with the Naples-based shipowner and following the situation closely.
Italy stepped up its measures against piracy earlier in July, clearing commercial ships sailing through dangerous waters to use private security guards or soldiers for protection.
It is not clear whether the Rbd Anema e Core was carrying armed guards.
Pirates have seized several Italian boats over the last few years.
Earlier this month, a Greek oil tanker hijacked by gunmen off the coast of Nigeria was released along with its 20-strong crew. The Liberian-flagged oil tanker Aegean Star owned by Endeavour Marine Agency was returning to the Ghanaian port of Tema.
On April 21 Somali pirates captured an Italian cargo ship headed for Iran with 21 crew members on board, including six Italians, in the Arabian Sea near Oman.
In February, pirates wielding rocket-launchers seized a large Italian oil tanker with a crew of five Italians and 17 Indians east off the Yemeni island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean.
After that attack, Italy’s shipowners association Confitarma, called for ships to have armed guards aboard.
The use of barbed wire or water cannons was “no longer enough” against “aggressive and dangerous” pirates, they argued.