x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Pirates grab UAE-flagged oil tanker and crew of 29

The United Arab Emirates-flagged Zirku was travelling from Sudan to Singapore when it was hijacked by pirates in the Gulf of Aden yesterday.

DUBAI // The UAE-flagged tanker MV Zirku was seized yesterday by pirates using rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, a source confirmed this morning.

At approximately 1pm Abu Dhabi time yesterday, the oil tanker was hijacked about 250 nautical miles southeast of Salalah, Oman, in the eastern part of the Gulf of Aden.

According to European Union EUNAVFOR naval patrol force officials, the Kuwaiti-owned vessel was on its way to Singapore from Bashayer, Sudan, when it was attacked.

The vessel was attacked by two pirate skiffs firing RPGs and raking the ship with small-arms fire, officials said; the fight lasted three hours. The tanker's crew of 29 comprises one Croatian, one Iraqi, one Filipino, one Indian, three Jordanians, three Eqyptians, two Ukrainians and 17 Pakistanis.

According to the source, negotiations have not started and it was impossible to say how long they might take.

“Its difficult to predict. Insurance people and risk-management experts have to conduct their evaluations and it may take up to three months,” he said.

EUNAVFOR said in a press statement that it was monitoring the situation.

The vessel has a maximum speed of 14.7 knots, meaning it was unlikely to have been able to outrun the pirate skiffs, an analyst said.

The ship is owned and managed by Arab Maritime Petroleum Transport Company, a pan-Arab organization headquartered in Kuwait. The Kuwaiti government owns the business, and the other shareholders are the governments of Algeria, Libya, Iraq, UAE and Saudi Arabia, as well as Qatar Petroleum and Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company.

amustafa@thenational.ae