Norway's Ugland says nine crew abducted by pirates from vessel off Benin

Nine crew members on a vessel owned by the Norwegian shipping firm J.J. Ugland have been kidnapped by pirates while anchored off the coast of Benin, the company said on Sunday.

The remaining crew of the Norwegian-flagged MV Bonita notified local authorities, and the vessel docked at the port city of Cotonou later on Saturday, the company said in a statement. The dry bulker Bonita carried a cargo of gypsum, a mineral commonly used as fertilizer, which was destined for Benin, Ugland said.

It's reported that other crew members, who are safe and sound, are currently being interviewed as an investigation is underway.

While piracy has decreased worldwide, West Africa's Gulf of Guinea is a high-risk area for abductions and armed robbery, said the International Maritime Bureau, a unit of the International Chamber of Commerce, in a statement in October.

Shippers have reported several abductions in the region in recent months, including eight crew members taken from a German-owned vessel off Cameroon in August, and 10 Turkish sailors off the coast of Nigeria in July.

Citing safety reasons, the Norwegian shipowner did not reveal the crew's nationalities or how many had avoided capture.

"The Ugland Emergency Response Team are handling this situation as per contingency plans, and they are in contact with relevant authorities. The families of the crew members have been contacted and will be kept informed by Ugland," the company said in the statement.

(With input from Reuters)