Source: Reuters 06/05/2010
A Russian oil tanker has reportedly been hijacked by pirates off the coast of Yemen Wednesday and Russian warship 'Marshal Shaposhnikov' patrolling the dangerous waters had responded to its distress call and was now on its way to assist the stricken vessel.
'MV Moscow University' belonging to Novorossiyk Shipping Company was sailing from Sudan to China carrying 86,000 tons of oil when it came under attack from buccaneers.
"The oil is Chinese. It belongs to Unipec. It was sailing to (the Chinese) port Ningbo," reports quoted a Russian shipping source as saying.
Confirming the incident, European Union's anti-piracy force EU NAVFOR Commander Rear Admiral Jan Thornqvist told reporters in Mombasa, Kenya, that the task force was alerted about an attack on a Liberian flagged ship 'Moscow University.' He added that the ship's 23-member crew had locked themselves up inside the radar room after it became evident that pirates had boarded the vessel.
"This morning we had an attack on a Liberian flagged ship Moscow University in the north eastern horn of our operation. The crew members locked themselves in the radar room. This ship has been hijacked," Thornqvist said.
According to NAVFOR, 'Moscow University' had not registered with the Maritime Security Center Horn of Africa for its transit through the Gulf of Aden.
Despite international efforts to weed out the menace, Somali pirates continue to operate with impunity and some of their leaders are known to have amassed vast sums of money received as ransom for releasing the hijacked vessels.
Mother ships used by pirates give them the luxury to strike as far as the Mozambique Channel and off India's coast in recent months and shipping companies are charting their vessels around the southern tip of Africa to avoid the Suez Canal and pirate-infested Gulf of Aden.
Meanwhile, in a recent report the International Maritime Bureau(IMB) said there was a drop in the number of ship hijackings by pirates this year compared with the same period of last year and this was attributed to the close watch being maintained by naval forces in the pirate-infested waters of the Gulf of Aden as well as steps taken by mercantile marines.
However, even as the number of hijackings came down appreciably, the corsairs who were earlier confined to the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia started expanding their operations to the coasts off Kenya, Tanzania, the Seychelles, and even Madagascar in the Indian Ocean and Oman in the Arabian Sea.