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Somali pirates: Welcome to Africa!

13/05/2012

Somali pirates hijack Liberian-flagged Greek oil tanker off Oman

MT Smyrni_Liberian-flagged oil tanker hijacked off Masirah Island_

The hijacked ship MT Smyrni is reported to have a crew comprising Indians, Filipinos and one Romanian national.

According to a BBC report from London, the hijacking is thought to have happened approximately 285nm SSE off Masirah Island, Oman, while the MT Smyrni was transiting in the International Transit Corridor.
This was only the second voyage for the tanker, which first set to sea in 2011.

There is no reliable information regarding the crew. Some sources say there are twenty-six crew members, specifically 11 Indians, including the master of the vessel, 14 Filipinos and one Romanian. Other sources say she has a crew of 15, mostly Indians and Filipinos.

“Aboard are nine Indians and about eight Filipinos,” Kenya-based piracy expert Andrew Mwangur, who is maritime editor of Somalia Report, said.

“It is headed to Somalia,” he added.

Industry websites said the vessel had sailed from Turkey, but there were mixed reports about its destination.

The vessel’s manager, Dynacom Tankers Management, said it had lost contact with the crew of the MT Smyrni, a Suezmax-class tanker, following the attack off Oman at 1115 GMT Thursday. “The Liberian-flagged Tanker, the M/T SMYRNI, is carrying a cargo of 135,000 MT of crude oil,” it said.

London-based International Maritime Bureau reports that 10 pirates in two skiffs armed with AK47s and RPGs approached a so far unidentified crude tanker underway and fired seven RPG rounds and more than 300 rounds from AK47s at the vessel from a distance of just 50 meters. Still, the tanker was able to evade the hijacking bid by taking effective anti-piracy measures.

The pirates managed to board the ship on a second attempt after their first attack was thwarted.

Nobody was injured in the attack but the vessel is reported to have sustained damage as a result. It is not clear if the vessel had a security team on board at the time of the attack.

Although it is not yet known whether a security team was on board the vessel, recent law changes in Greece were established to permit armed guards on Greek-flagged vessels, while Liberia also permits armed guards on its flagged vessels.

The attack was one of four that occurred in the Arabian Sea over the last two days following a period of little activity in the region.

It is said to be the first successful attack on an oil tanker off the Horn of Africa in more than a year.

Somali pirates often take over vessels in the busy shipping route in the Gulf of Aden, and have also come eastward up to the Arabian Sea in some cases. The hijacking comes after a brief lull in pirate attacks.

The hijack success rate for Somali pirates has dropped sharply in recent months, due in part to more merchant ships turning to armed security guards, razor wire and water cannons to protect themselves.

On Wednesday, a pirate gang fired rocket-propelled grenades at a crude oil tanker 565 km east of Socotra, an island lying between Yemen and Somalia’s lawless coastline, OceanUSlive.org said.

Seaborne gangs have raked in an estimated $150 million in ransoms in what has become a highly organized, international criminal enterprise, security analysts say.

In December, Somali pirates released an Italian-owned Aframax oil tanker , smaller than the Suezmax, after receiving an $11.5 million payment.
The Savina Caylyn was seized in February, 2011.

According to the International Maritime Organisation, 17 ships and close to 300 crew are currently held by Somali pirates.

* 11 Indians on ship hijacked off Oman – tribuneindia.com

* Pirates seize tanker off Oman – arabnews.com

* Liberian-flagged oil tanker hijacked off Masirah Island – times1.timesofoman.com

* Liberian-flagged oil tanker hijacked off Masirah Island – theliberiantimes.com

* Un român, la bordul unui petrolier grec capturat de piraţi în Marea Arabiei — rtv.net

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