ABUJA, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- The Nigerian maritime agency on Thursday confirmed that 19 crew members were kidnapped when pirates hijacked an oil vessel off the Nigerian coast.
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) said in a statement reaching Xinhua in Abuja that the vessel, named "Nave Constellation," was full when it was hijacked.
Nine other crew members were left untouched and there was no damage on the vessel when it was attacked late Tuesday 77 nautical miles off Bonny Island at the southern edge of the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, NIMASA said.
The nationalities of those kidnapped are not yet known.
Bonny Island is a major loading point of crude oil in Nigeria, Africa's biggest oil producer.
NIMASA said the operators of the vessel made contact with the Nigerian maritime authorities and the navy, who immediately went to work in ensuring the safety of the crew members that were not taken away by the hijackers.
According to NIMASA, the vessel owners had operated for 10 days within Nigeria's territorial waters, yet did not establish contact with the harbormasters.
"It also did not establish contact with the authorities in Nigeria. However, that is not an issue because life is more precious than any other consideration," the statement said.
NIMASA said efforts will be made to fast-track and ensure adequate safety on its waterways while working with relevant partners to rescue the kidnapped crew.