Polish authorities said on Friday that a Polish-owned cargo vessel was attacked off the Nigerian coast by pirates who kidnapped the captain and four crew members, the first documented attack of its kind in almost year in one of the deadliest shipping lanes in the world.
Armed men boarded the Cyprus-registered vessel Szafir overnight and looted the 10,000-tonne cargo ship, operator EuroAfrica said.
"Five of our seamen have been kidnapped: four officers and one sailor from a 16-person crew. 11 people have avoided any harm and are safe," Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said at a news conference in Warsaw on Friday.
Waszczykowski added that the unidentified attackers have yet to make a demand for the people they kidnapped, adding that Poland was cooperating with the Nigerian authorities.
"We are in contact with the Nigerian authorities, the Polish ambassador [to Nigeria] is at the moment in the [Nigerian] Foreign Ministry, the relevant notes and letters to Nigerian authorities asking for support and help have been issued. Now we are waiting for further developments," he said.
The kidnapped crew also included other officers of the ship, resulting in the ship being impossible to navigate.
"The rest of the crew, 11 people, are still on the ship and they are safe... The ship suffered some damage," Waszczykowski said.
When asked whether Poland would use its special forces to secure the release of the hostages, Waszczykowski said that the matter is a responsibility of the sovereign state of Nigeria.
"Those who have kidnapped our sailors have not formed requests yet. They usually demand a ransom or political demands. We will react depending on what demands are placed," he said.
The vessel was anchored around 30 nautical miles (56 kilometers) off the Nigerian coast and the operator was preparing for a new crew to arrive to take the vessel back to port.
"The captain and three officers are missing, so there is a problem in leading the ship to the safe port. The ship's owner has brought pilots to the ship who will safely lead the ship with the crew into the safe port," Polish Maritime Minister Marek Grobarczyk said.
Nigerian authorities have not made a comment yet.
The waters off Nigeria are listed as some of the deadliest on earth by security experts. Pirates often target oil tankers and take hostages for ransom.
However, there has been no documented attacks in the region since February, when a crude carrier was boarded, the ship’s Greek deputy captain killed and three crew members were taken hostage.
Grobarczyk said that the safety measures of all Polish firms operating in the area would be reviewed to provide safety for the sailors.