The Pirates of Africa

November 19, 2008 at 1:30 am Leave a comment

Pirates prowling the treacherous waters off the Horn of Africa hijacked another merchant ship Tuesday, at least the fourth in four days. One shipping company said it was abandoning routes through the area, taking a longer trip around Africa. 

The Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship Delight and its 25-person crew were captured Tuesday off the coast of Yemen, Beijing’s Xinhua news agency reported, citing the official Maritime Search and Rescue Center. It was hauling 36,000 metric tons of wheat to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, the news service reported.
U.S. forces in the Middle East confirmed the hijacking but could provide no further details.
A Malaysian maritime official said Tuesday that pirates also had hijacked a Thai fishing boat with 16 crew members off Somalia. 
Meanwhile, the 1,000-foot-long Sirius Star, an oil tanker hijacked by suspected Somali pirates Saturday, was moored off the central coast of Somalia, the boat’s operator said. The ship was anchored Tuesday within sight of a Somali fishing region considered a haven for seafaring bandits, the U.S. military in the Middle East said.
Its seizure prompted a major Norwegian shipping group on Tuesday to order its more than 90 tankers to sail around Africa rather than use the Suez Canal and a route near the Somali coast. 
“We will no longer expose our crew to the risk of being hijacked and held for ransom by pirates in the Gulf of Aden,” said Terje Storeng, Odfjell’s president and chief executive. “Unless we are explicitly committed by existing contracts to sail through this area, as from today we will reroute our ships around Cape of Good Hope.”
In addition to the Sirius Star and Delight, the International Maritime Bureau has reported at least eight other attacks by pirates on shipping in the region since Nov. 10, most of them warded off by seamen aboard the targeted vessels.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Somali Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein bemoaned the effects of piracy on his nation, which is beset by poverty, hunger and a rebellion by Islamic militants.
Officials of the Saudi Arabian company operating the Sirius Star scrambled to secure the crew, the $120 million ship and oil worth more than $100 million.
“Our first and foremost priority is ensuring the safety of the crew,” Salah Kaaki, president of Dubai-based Vela International Marine Ltd., operator of the Saudi-owned ship, said in a news release.
The announcement said the company is awaiting further contact from the pirates. 
Source: LA Times/AP

Entry filed under: World. Tags: , , , .

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