Cotonou: Nine sailors who were waiting in the harbour of the port of Cotonou in Benin have been abducted by suspected pirates, port authorities said Sunday.

“The Autonomous Port of Cotonou regrets to inform you that Saturday morning, November 2, 2019, an act of piracy took place in the harbour area,” authorities said in a statement.

They said it involved a ship called Bonita which was attacked “about nine miles off the entrance to the port and eight crew members plus the ship’s captain were abducted,” the port authorities said.

The Norwegian owner of the ship, the Ugland company, issued a statement confirming that the “MV Bonita was boarded by pirates early Saturday morning off Cotonou/Benin while she was at anchor.”

It added that “9 crew members were taken off the vessel while she was waiting for berth to discarge inbound cargo, gypsum. Remaining crew notified local authorities and Bonita arrived alongside in Cotonou later the same day.”

A company spokesman told the Dagens Naeringsliv newspaper that the abducted sailors were all Filipinos.

The Gulf of Guinea, which extends from Cameroon to Liberia, has become one of the most dangerous maritime regions in the world.

The attacks on ships and the abductions of crew for ransom have become more frequent, especially along the Nigerian coast where the pirates come from.

The pirates sometimes divert ships for several days, long enough to plunder the cargo and demand huge ransoms before freeing the crew.

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, where Nigeria and Angola, the two main oil producers in sub-Saharan Africa, are located has seriously disrupted international maritime transport essential to the continent at a cost of billions of dollars.