x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Pirates strike off Oman coast

Pirates seize a German-owned cargo ship off the coast of Oman, the first recorded attack in its territorial waters.

Pirates have seized a cargo vessel from Antigua and Barbuda off the coast of Oman, Nato announced. "I can confirm a ship, the MV Charelle, has been hijacked on Friday inside Oman's territorial waters," Commander Chris Davies, a Nato spokesman, said yesterday. "This is the first noted case of armed robbery in Oman's territorial waters, outside the normal areas where pirates operate. It's quite unusual." The ship was believed to be heading towards Somalia last night, with no word on its captain and crew. The attack is the closest yet to the Emirates, calling into question the possible impact on the Port of Fujairah, which has the world's second-largest ship refuelling station. When contacted last night port officials were not aware of the attack and were not ready to discuss the possibility of added security in the area. Confirming the seizure of a boat at the southern end of the Red Sea this week, the US Navy warned that the pirates would most likely extend their range beyond the heavily patrolled Gulf of Aden and operate more under cover of darkness. At the last count, 14 ships were still being held by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, together with more than 200 seamen, almost a quarter of them Filipinos. Last month the Government entered the early stage of discussions about contributing a vessel to an anti-piracy naval force based in Bahrain. There are already 29 countries patrolling the Gulf of Aden. French naval ships assigned to a new base at Port Zayed will probably count anti-piracy manoeuvres in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia among their duties, it was announced last month. Last month a Dubai-based oil tanker narrowly foiled an attack by pirates off Somalia, when a naval escort answered its distress call. newsdesk@thenational.ae * With files from AFP, Reuters