Somali pirates seize Saudi tanker

Published November 18, 2008

DUBAI, Nov 17: Pirates on Monday attacked and took control of the Saudi-owned very large crude carrier Sirius Star off the east coast of Africa, the US Navy said.

The vessel, which came under attack more than 450 nautical miles southeast of Mombasa, Kenya, is heading towards the coast of Somalia, a spokeswoman for the Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet said.

“According to the latest report we have, the ship is approaching the Somali coast, heading towards Eyl (port),” she said, contacted by telephone from Dubai. “Can we assume that the pirates are Somalis? Yes.” The spokeswoman said she has no confirmation of a report on Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television that control of the vessel had been regained from the pirates.

Sirius Star, which is owned by Saudi Aramco, carried 25 crew members from Croatia, Britain, Philippines, Poland and Saudi Arabia, according to a US Navy statement. The 318,000-tonne vessel, launched earlier this year, is flagged in Liberia and operated by Vela International.

“Our presence in the region is helping deter and disrupt criminal attacks off the Somali coast, but the situation with the Sirius Star clearly indicates the pirates’ ability to adapt their tactics and methods of attack,” Vice Admiral Bill Gortney said in the US Navy statement.

The International Maritime Bureau has reported that at least 83 ships have been attacked off Somalia since January, of which 33 were hijacked. Of those, 12 vessels and more than 200 crew were still in the hands of pirates.

Last week, the European Union started a security operation off the coast of Somalia, north of Kenya, to combat growing acts of piracy and protect ships carrying aid agency deliveries.—AFP

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