Georgia on Wednesday announced the release of two sailors kidnapped in early May by pirates off the coast of Gabon, close to a Gabonese commercial port.
"The two Georgian sailors kidnapped in Gabon were released on 21 May thanks to the efforts of the Georgian foreign ministry, the Georgian embassy in South Africa, and the Georgian shipping agency," Georgian diplomatic spokeswoman Mari Nartchemashvili told AFP.
"The sailors were kidnapped on 2 May when pirates attacked their ship, the Grebe Bulker, which was docked in Gabonese territorial waters," she said.
The 190-meter-long bulk carrier, owned by the US shipping company Eagle Bulk Shipping Inc. but flying the Marshall Islands flag, was attacked while at anchor less than eight kilometres off the Gabonese commercial port of Owendo, on the outskirts of the capital, Libreville, a judicial source in Gabon told AFP earlier on condition of anonymity.
According to this source, "unknown persons" kidnapped the captain of the ship, a Russian, and his second and third officers, two Georgians.
The freed sailors are in "satisfactory condition", Ms. Nartchemashvili said, without giving details of the conditions of their release or the fate of the Russian captain.
The attack was one of the closest to the coast and to a major Gabonese city ever committed by pirates.
The Gulf of Guinea, especially off the coasts of Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea, is often the scene of attacks by pirates who take their hostages to Nigeria and release them, sometimes after some time, for ransom.
In January, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, announced that global piracy in 2022 was at its lowest level since 1992. The waters of the Gulf of Guinea previously considered the epicentre of global maritime piracy over the past decade, also saw a decline in such attacks in 2022.
But since the beginning of the year, the number of these acts seems to be on the rise again, with at least two recorded in just over a month, and several others foiled.