Ship with Georgian Crew Found in Congo

The ship Pantelena, which was sailing under the Panama flag with 17 Georgian sailors and which went missing around two weeks ago, has been found in Congo.

The 121-meter tanker, carrying about 7,000 tons of fuel, with 19 crew members, 17 Georgian and two Russian nationals, was spotted by the multinational coordination center in Pointe Noire, Congo, while it was patrolling the maritime area in the Gulf of Guinea.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Georgia reported the loss of radio contact with the Pantelena on August 17. It said that the sea transport agency under the economics ministry was in contact with Greece’s Lotus Shipping Co, the ship’s owner, to find the tanker. Britain’s UKMTO and navies of the regional countries were involved in the search operation.

The Russian foreign ministry also said it was keeping a close eye on the situation.

On August 25, the Georgian MFA said all 17 sailors are safe and in the Togo Republic and confirmed it had contacted the vessel crew, which is being provided for in terms of primary needs. The lives and health of its members are said not to be in danger.

The MFA added that according to the captain, the ship was captured by pirates.

“The Government of Georgia remains in contact with ship Pantelena and is ready to assist the Georgian sailors in case there is any need,” the ministry stated.

Vladimir Konstantinidi, Deputy Director of the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated an inspection of the ship was carried out by Togo security forces.

“They took a doctor and a psychologist on board and examined the sailors. They have been provided with all necessary things, including water and food,” he stated.

Lasha Gadilia, the captain of the ship, told Georgian media that the pirates attacked the crew late on August 13.

He says the attackers locked the sailors in one room for nine days, threatening them with guns. According to him, the pirates did not physically attack the crew and periodically supplied them with water and food.

Gadilia remembers that the attackers spoke to the prisoners in poor English with the local dialect and they were unable to understand the demands of the pirates.

The sailors of the vessel Pantelena were released, but they have yet to give details or say why the pirates decided to release them.

By Thea Morrison

27 August 2018 16:57