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Tanker With Georgian, Russian Crew Missing Off Coast Of West Africa

An oil tanker with 19 crew members on board, most of them Georgians, has gone missing in waters off West Africa frequently plied by pirates, and no word has been heard from it for a week, the ship's managers said.

Officials said on August 23 that communication was lost with the Panama-registered Pantelena on August 14 when it was near the port of Libreville in Gabon. The ship is owned by Greece's Lotus Shipping company and was en route from Lome to Libreville.

The Georgian crew agency Ialkani and the Georgian government said 17 Georgians were aboard the tanker, along with two Russians.

While piracy has decreased worldwide, it has increased recently in the Gulf of Guinea, with more than 100 incidents of ship seizures, crew abductions, and robberies reported so far this year.

Piracy in previous decades thrived off the East African coast, where Somali pirates ply the waters.

Ships in the Gulf of Guinea were the target of a series of piracy-related incidents last year, according to a report in January by the International Maritime Bureau, which highlighted the waters off West Africa as an area of growing concern.

It said 10 incidents of kidnapping involving 65 crew members took place in or around Nigerian waters last year, while seven vessels were fired on in the Gulf of Guinea.

Based on reporting by Reuters, Interfax, and TASS

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