Russia’s navy has foiled an attempt by pirates to hijack a Panama-registered container ship off West Africa, the Russian defence ministry has said. The MSC Lucia was en route to Cameroon from Togo when it sent out a distress call on Monday that was picked up the Russian destroyer Vice-Admiral Kulakov. A unit of Russian marines were dispatched by helicopter to the Lucia’s aid, the defence ministry statement said. The pirates immediately fled, allowing the marines to free the ship’s crew. The Russian destroyer was patrolling the Gulf of Guinea as part of international efforts to improve security there. The waters off West Africa’s oil-rich coastline have been some of the most dangerous in the world for shipping in recent years.