18 November 2008

Somali pirates seize tanker carrying oil worth $100m

A large, Saudi-owned crude oil carrier Sirius Star has been captured by pirates in the Arabian Sea. The tanker was attacked 450 nautical miles southeast of Mombasa, Kenya Photograph: Caters News Agency Ltd

Capture of huge Saudi ship hundreds of miles out to sea demonstrates that gangs have resources and audacity to disrupt one of world's busiest shipping lanes

  1. guardian.co.uk, Tuesday November 18 2008 00.01 GMT
  2. The Guardian, Tuesday November 18 2008
  3. Article history
Somali pirates yesterday seized a Saudi supertanker carrying up to 2m barrels of oil worth around $100m in an audacious attack several hundred miles out to sea. Two Britons are among the 25 crew of the Sirius Star, which was captured 450 miles south-east of the Kenyan port of Mombasa. The US navy, which has been tracking the ship, said last night it was close to anchoring in the notorious pirate haven of Eyl on Somalia's north-eastern coast.

"Both the size of the vessel and the distance from the coast where the hijackers struck is unprecedented," said Commander Jane Campbell, a spokeswoman for the US Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain. "It shows how quickly the pirates are adapting."


Another spokesman, Lieutenant Nate Christensen, said: "We don't know the condition of the crew on board or the nature of the pirates' demands. In cases like this what we typically see is a demand for money from the ship owners but we haven't had that yet. We don't know exactly where they are taking it but we know the town of Eyl is a pirate stronghold."
Eyl is in the northern Puntland region of Somalia and has become notorious for pirate activity.

Nato and other international warships have increased patrols around northern Somalia to try to deter the heavily armed Somali pirate gangs who have seriously disrupted one of the world busiest shipping lanes. The pirates are holding about a dozen vessels hostage and more than 200 foreign crew. They are believed to have already netted more than £20m in ransoms this year.


Most of the captured ships were attacked in the Gulf of Aden, which connects the Red Sea to the Arabian Sea. But the seizure of the Sirius Star, a new ship more than 300 metres long and weighing three times as much as a typical aircraft carrier, took place in unpatrolled waters hundreds of miles south of Somalia, at a latitude intersecting with Tanzania.


Owned by Saudi Aramco, the state-run oil company, the ship was on course to sail around the Cape of Good Hope to the US when it was seized on Saturday. The oil on board represents more than a quarter of Saudi Arabia's daily output. News of the hijacking caused the price of oil to jump by more than a dollar a barrel.


The US navy would not comment on a possible rescue operation, saying only that it was evaluating the situation.


A spokesman for the Royal Navy said he could not say whether British servicemen were involved in any attempts to rescue the vessel. "It is our policy not to discuss operational matters," he said.


The Foreign Office confirmed that two Britons were on board the ship. The other seamen are from Croatia, Poland, Saudi Arabia and the Philippines. The pirates seldom harm crew members as they wait for ransoms to be paid. Full News : http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/nov/18/piracy

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