x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Somali pirates capture Saudi tanker

Somali pirates capture a Saudi tanker and its crew of 14 in the Gulf of Aden, says the European Union's antipiracy naval mission.

Somali pirates have captured a small Saudi tanker and its crew of 14 in the Gulf of Aden, the European Union's antipiracy naval mission said today. The MT Al Nisr Al Saudi, a 5,136 deadweight-tonne tanker, was seized on Monday with its Greek captain and 13 Sri Lankan crew members, said John Harbour, the spokesman for the EU's antipiracy naval mission. "I can confirm that the Saudi product tanker Al-Nisr Al-Saudi was hijacked on Monday the 1st, with its 14-member crew, including its Greek captain," Mr Harbour. "She is now anchored in front of the pirate stronghold of Garaad. The EU Naval force Atalanta is monitoring the situation," he said.

The Al Nisr al Saudi, is much smaller than the Saudi-owned colossus that pirates captured in 2008, in a hijacking that brought Somali piracy to the world's attention. The Sirius Star, a tanker measuring a third of a kilometre in length and carrying two million barrels of crude oil, was eventually released in January 2009 in exchange for a ransom estimated at around eight million dollars. The Saudi juggernaut's capture largely contributed to speeding up international response to the growing number of attacks by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden, through which around 100 ships sail each day.

The EU launched a mission in a bid to secure the vital shipping lane, joining forces with US-led and Nato missions, as well as other warships dispatched by other naval powers. The unprecedented naval deployment failed to curb piracy figures as Somalia's marauding ransom hunters moved south and started venturing further out in the less heavily-patrolled Indian Ocean, notably towards the Seychelles.

The Al Nisr Al Saudi's capture is a relatively rare case of pirates beating the foreign armada's vigilance in the Gulf of Aden in recent months. * AFP