The tug boat, together with a barge, were carrying about 7,000 tons of coal to Batangas (the Philippines) when the hijack occurred. The barge (including the coal) may still be under control of the kidnappers. The owner of the tug boat and coal barge received multiple telephone calls in which Abu Sayyaf militants demanded the ransom.

Abu Sayyaf, founded in the early 1990s, is a Al-Qaeda linked militant organization that is mentioned on US and Philippine lists of terrorist organizations. Similar to other radical Islam groups Abu Sayyaf is known for its bombings, extortion and kidnappings. The group, which is primarily active in the southern part of the Philippines, has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS) group.