After a short period of relative calm off the Horn of Africa, Somali pirates have again seized a commercial vessel near the country of Oman.
By late Friday morning EST May 11, 2012, Reuters news agency was reporting that the vessel MT Smyrni had been loaded loaded with nearly 1 million barrels of crude oil, in Turkey. At last report, the owner has lost contact with crew, and had ascertained that the vessel was bound for Somalia.
Reuters reported that there had been a “spate of attempted hijackings in past few days” and that the “hijack had been carried out by 10 pirates with automatic weapons.”
George Obulutsa and Mohamed Ahmed reported for Reuters on Friday:
MOGADISHU/NAIROBI, May 11 (Reuters) – Somali pirates have hijacked a Greek-owned oil tanker carrying close to a million barrels of crude oil while in the Arabian Sea, the first successful attack on an oil tanker off the Horn of Africa in more than a year.
A pirate who identified himself as Ahmed told Reuters the MT Smyrni had been diverted towards Somalia’s lawless coastline.
The vessel’s manager, Dynacom Tankers Management, said it had lost contact with the crew of the Suezmax-class tanker following the attack off Oman at 1115 GMT on Thursday.
“It is now heading to one of our bases,” Ahmed told Reuters by phone from a pirate lair in Hobyo.
Based on the course and speed of the vessel’s advance, the tanker will reach Hurdiyo in Somalia around midday on Saturday, an industry source said.
The Suezmax tanker loaded around one million barrels of crude in Turkey – worth close to $115 million dollars at current prices – and was on its way to Indonesia.
Shipping records show the cargo aboard the Liberia-flagged vessel is owned by Azeri state oil firm Socar, although this could not be confirmed by the firm.
Both Socar and the vessel’s owner Dynacom declined to comment further on the details of the vessel’s voyage.
London-based International Maritime Bureau said the attack involved 10 pirates in two skiffs armed with automatic weapons and that they managed to board the ship on a second attempt after their first attack was thwarted.
It added that the ship had 26 crew members, but could not confirm their nationalities. Earlier, a Kenya-based piracy expert said the crew numbered around 17 and were from India Philippines and the tanker was headed for the Somali coastline.
Interested readers may wish to reference material posted on this web site a few weeks ago to create some context about this serious, and ongoing threat to international shipping in my submission dated April 27, 2012, titled “Piracy Concerns Heighten Off Africa’s West Coast” and “Piracy Continues to Threaten Global Trade Stability” dated March 30, 2012.
In related news, the Bangkok Post has reported that Thai Royal Navy ships are in pursuit of the hijackers of the MT Smyrni, but were reluctant to engage operations fearing for the safety of everyone concerned. The Post reported on May 13, 2012:
Somali pirates have captured a Liberian-flagged tanker carrying about 135,000 tonnes of oil for PTT Plc in the Gulf of Aden.
The hijacking of the MT Smyrni, owned by Dynacom Tankers Management of Greece, marks the first successful seizure since February of last year.
The seizure was reported to the Navy Operations Centre by Combined Task Force 151 (CTF-151), which is under the command of the Royal Thai Navy’s Counter Piracy Task Group Commander Rear Admiral Thanin Likhitwong.
Rear Adm Thanin has reported that CTF-151 ships are pursuing the pirates but no operations have been launched due to concerns for crew safety.
It was reported the vessel has a crew of 26 and there has been no communication from the pirates or the crew since the hijacking.
The oil tanker originated from Turkey but there are conflicting reports about its destination. MT Smyrni is said to have no security personnel on board even though Liberian-flagged vessels are permitted to deploy armed guards.
No Thais were in the crew, but there were reportedly nine Indians and “about” eight Filipinos aboard the hijacked vessel.
Dynacom, the vessel’s manager, said it had lost contact with the crew of the MT Smyrni, a Suezmax-class tanker, following the attack off Oman at 8:15 p.m. Thailand time (11:15 GMT) on Thursday.
The Supply Chain Almanac will keep you posted as developments occur.
Your comments and feedback are appreciated.
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