Russia Military Says It Drove Pirates Away From Ship Off Africa Coast

Russia's armed forces have said they prevented a hijacking that took place off Africa's western coast, driving the pirates away and rescuing the crew.

The Russian Ministry of Defense announced Monday that its large anti-submarine ship, Udaloy-class destroyer Vice-Admiral Kulakov, received a distress signal from the Panama-flagged container ship MSC Lucia as it sailed in the Gulf of Guinea between Togo and Cameroon in West Africa. Armed hijackers had reportedly approached the ship via a small speedboat and boarded as the crew hid in the engine room.

The warship then "immediately" dispatched a Kumov Ka-27PS helicopter with a marines unit. Upon seeing the incoming aircraft, "the pirates left the ship, got into a fast boat and headed towards the coast at full speed," according to the ministry.

Russian counterterrorism forces attached to Vice-Admiral Kulakov boarded MSC Lucia, then "freed the crew and proceeded to inspect the ship."

Reports had emerged earlier Monday of MSC Lucia's potential hijacking via maritime monitors such as Dryad Global, which said the incident took place 86 nautical miles southwest of the Agbami Terminal, part of Nigeria's offshore oil-rich Agbami Field.

MSC Lucia is owned by the Mediterranean Shipping Company, a Swiss-Italian firm that operates across the globe.

The Russian Defense Ministry said that Vice-Admiral Kulakov was operating alongside replenishment oiler Academic Pashin and rescue boat Altai as part of a three-week mission in the Gulf of Guinea.

Instances of maritime piracy have decreased in recent years, hitting the lowest mark since 1994 in the first nine months of 2021, according to a report released by the International Chamber of Commerce's International Maritime Bureau. Of the 97 incidents recorded in this time period, 28 occurred in the Gulf of Guinea.

This is a developing news story. More information will be added as it becomes available.

Russia, military, rescue, container, ship, Lucia, pirates
An image published October 25, 2021, by the Russian Defense Ministry appears to show a pirate speedboat speeding away from Panamanian flagged container ship Lucia in the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of Africa. Russian Ministry of Defense