Kidnapping Update

Security forces in Nigeria have located a boat carrying gunmen and the four foreign oil workers they abducted and will soon make an attempt to rescue the captives, a navy official said Friday.

Gunmen kidnapped the four foreigners — a Bulgarian, Briton, American and Honduran — from an offshore oil platform run by Royal Dutch Shell on Wednesday.

“We’ve used a radar tracking system to locate the boat. We have a good security report on the gang and where they are,” the head of Nigeria’s navy, Vice Adm. Ganiyu Adekeye, told reporters in the southern oil port city of Warri.

He said security forces were moving to arrest the kidnappers and free the hostages.

Also Friday, Royal Dutch Shell announced delays in oil shipments from Nigeria after the kidnap of the workers and after an explosion that ruptured a major pipeline.

In a message to shippers declaring force majeure, or inability to meet export commitments due to unforeseen circumstances, Shell said oil loading would be delayed three to four days, beginning Friday.

The message cited the ruptured pipeline. The rupture was caused early Thursday by an explosion — apparently sabotage — in Nigeria’s troubled, oil-rich delta along a major pipeline feeding Shell’s Forcados oil export terminal.

The pipeline rupture and the kidnapping cut oil production in the West African country by 10 percent.

Shell’s announcement of shipping delays helped send light, sweet crude for February delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange up 6 cents to $64 a barrel in electronic trading by midday in Europe. February Brent crude futures on London’s ICE Futures exchange gained 30 cents to $62.92 a barrel.

“The impact of the shut-in is heightened by the fact that Nigeria produces sweet crude, which is in higher demand in the U.S. because many of the refineries are set up to handle it,” said Sucden Commodity brokers in London.

Dow Jones quoted a Shell spokesman Friday as saying production at the oilfield shut down after Wednesday’s kidnapping restarted Thursday and Shell expected a gradual return to full production early next week.

Nigeria is Africa’s leading oil exporter and the fifth-biggest source of U.S. oil imports. The country produces about 2.5 million barrels a day.

But oil also is a source of unrest. Violence, hostage-taking and sabotage of oil operations have been common in the oil-rich Niger Delta in the past 15 years amid demands by the region’s impoverished communities for a greater share of the oil revenue flowing from their land.

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