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Pirates hijack oil tanker off lawless Somalia

Pirates have seized a gas oil tanker and possibly another ship carrying food to Somalia in the latest of a series of hijackings off the lawless Horn of Africa nation, maritime officials said Monday.
/ Source: Reuters

Pirates have seized a gas oil tanker and possibly another ship carrying food to Somalia in the latest of a series of hijackings off the lawless Horn of Africa nation, maritime officials said on Monday.

“They say two more ships have been hijacked, we are still trying to know where in Somalia they were seized,” said Andrew Mwangura, of the Kenyan branch of the global Seafarers organization representing the maritime industry.

Mwangura told Reuters he was informed of the hijackings by colleagues in Dubai where both ships had embarked on their voyages.

“The ship that was laden with oil was just passing Somalia, and the other one was carrying foodstuff destined for Somalia,” he told Reuters from the port of Mombasa.

The London-based International Maritime Bureau confirmed the tanker hijacking, but said it had no record of a second attack at the weekend.

Increase in attacks 'very worrying'
IMB Deputy Director Jayant Abhyankar told Reuters a 30,000-ton deadweight Maltese-flagged tanker laden with gas oil was seized last Thursday.

That follows the hijacking of a Liberian-flagged and Maltese-owned 34,000-ton dry-bulk carrier called the Panagia hijacked earlier last week, the IMB said.

Abhyankar said no demands had been made yet for the release of the tanker and its crew, which he declined to name.

He said the latest reported incident pushed the number of attacks up to a shocking 27 since March of this year.

“It’s very worrying considering there were next to no attacks last year. We thought a degree of stability had returned to Somalia, but that certainly hasn’t happened in the maritime sphere,” Abhyankar said.

Dangerous waters
The IMB classes Indian Ocean waters off Somalia as among the most dangerous in the world.

The most high-profile seizures have been of U.N. World Food Program ships carrying aid to Somalia. They were both released -- one after a 100-day standoff at sea.

The IMB said on Monday that a third ship, the Torgelow, that was seized while carrying supplies to one of the hijacked U.N. aid ships, was still being held.

The attacks on ships have highlighted insecurity in Somalia, which has had no government to enforce law and order since warlords ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.