Seven crew members abducted from a Swire Pacific Offshore (SPO) vessel supporting ExxonMobil on the Zafiro field off Equatorial Guinea over a month ago are home after being released.

The crew were snatched from the anchor-handling tug supply vessel Pacific Warden in the early morning of 20 November.

When their vessel was attacked, there were 15 crew members on board, comprising crew from South Africa, Cameroon, Serbia and the Philippines. The other eight were unharmed and were taken to shore shortly after the incident.

Singapore-based SPO said in a statement on Tuesday: “On their release, after 31 days in captivity, the crew were met by senior representatives from SPO.

“Immediate medical checks and other necessary arrangements were organised and all have now returned to their home countries and their loved ones."

Managing director Peter Langslow added: “I would like to recognise our crew members and their families for the extraordinary courage, resilience and patience they demonstrated throughout this ordeal.

“We are relieved that it has been possible for the crew to be reunited with their families in time for the Christmas and year-end holidays, and SPO will continue to provide them with our full support in recovering from the trauma of the event.”

The Pacific Warden was supporting offshore field operations in Equatorial Guinea for ExxonMobil. The vessel had left the oilfield of Zafiro, 12 nautical miles off the coast, and was heading to Luba, a port town on the southern island of Bioko, when it was attacked, according to local reports.

The Gulf of Guinea remains a high-risk area for piracy and armed robbery, as the region accounts for 86% of crew taken hostage and nearly 82% of crew kidnappings globally, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

IMB said an attack in July on a cargo vessel saw ten crew members kidnapped and released four weeks later.

A similar incident a month later on a bulk carrier and a general cargo vessel saw a total of seventeen crew kidnapped. Within six weeks all kidnapped crew were released, the sea monitoring organisation said.