Pirates capture Saudi oil tanker

November 19th, 2008

Pirates have seized control of the Sirius Star, a Saudi-owned oil tanker off the coast of Kenya and are steering her towards Somalia, reports the US Navy. The ship was captured roughly 830 kilometers south-east of Mombasa and is reportedly heading towards the Somali port of Eyl.

The oil tanker was carrying over 2 million barrels of oil at the time of her capture, and was on her way to the United States via Cape Town. Reuters claimed that news of the attack raised crude oil prices around the world.

Vela International Marine, the ship’s owner, has said the Sirius Star is fully loaded. The oil could be worth up to US$100 million. The US Navy reports that all 25 crew from the United Kingdom, Croatia, the Philippines, Poland, and Saudi Arabia are ‘safe’.

The area off the East coast of Africa has seen a significant amount of piracy. In 2007, one-third of the world’s piracy incidents occurred in this region.

Hijacking off the coast of Somalia has become increasingly common over the last decade. Over the last year multiple countries have expressed concern or committed their navies to dealing with Somali pirates. Most recently, South Korea has announced intentions to send its navy after five South Korean ships were captured in a series of hijackings.

The Sirius Star is the largest ship captured by pirates in the area to date. This also sets a record for the farthest from the shore that pirates have struck.

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