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Pirates release French tanker hijacked off Ivory Coast

Pirates who seized a French tanker with a mostly African crew off Ivory Coast this week have released the vessel, a spokesman for its owner Sea Tankers said on Wednesday.

"The boat was released very early this morning. The pirates left the ship, which is under the control of its captain," said the spokesman, adding that two of the 17 sailors aboard were lightly wounded during the hijacking.

The spokesman said part of the ship's cargo was stolen, but provided no other details on why the pirates abandoned the ship.

He said the ship's current location would not be revealed for security reasons and that the company "thanked naval forces, local authorities and all others who allowed for this successful outcome."

Sea Tankers lost communication with the ship, the Luxembourg-flagged Gascogne, on Sunday morning.

Ivory Coast officials said an armed gang had hijacked the vessel in Ivorian waters 139 kilometres (86 miles) from Abidjan. On Monday they said it appeared to be somewhere off the coast of Nigeria.

Ivory Coast officials said 15 African and two Asian sailors were aboard the ship, including seven Togolese, four men from Benin, two Senegalese, two Ivorians, a Chinese and a South Korean.

The tanker, which had been chartered by a South Korean company, had 3,000 tonnes of diesel fuel onboard while in port in Abidjan a few days before the hijacking, but had already offloaded some onto another ship before being seized.

The hijacking marked the third such incident in recent months in Ivory Coast after pirates seized a Panama-flagged oil tanker anchored in Abidjan last month and hijacked a Greek tanker in the same city in October, looting the vessel before releasing it.