Pirates attack more ships off East African coast
The crew of a supertanker was reported safe Tuesdayafter pirates hijacked the oil vessel off the East African coast near Kenya, reported CNN.
Two more ships were attacked Tuesday and a third was seized Saturday but was only reported Tuesday, according to a monitoring agency.
The hijackings highlight an increase in piracy affecting national governments and shipping companies around the world.
"This is completely unprecedented," said Michael Howlett, assistant director of the International Maritime Bureau in London, which tracks pirate attacks. "We've never seen a situation like this."
After the Tuesday hijackings, 95 incidents involving pirates and commercial vessels off the East African coast have been reported this year, an increase from 31 incidents in 2007 and 10 in 2006, Howlett said.
The U.S. Navy said the tanker is currently anchored off Haradhere, reportedly a village base for pirate gangs, 180 miles north of Mogadishu, Somalia.
Howlett said pirates currently hold 17 vessels and 339 crew members hostage.
A multinational naval force including vessels from the U.S., the UK and Russia has been patrolling the Indian Ocean waters seas near the Gulf of Aden, which connects the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea, following the increase in pirate attacks in the region. However, attacks are spreading farther north, according to Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Center.
The Sirius Star supertanker was attacked Saturday. It weighs more than 300,000 metric tons and the ship's operator says it is fully loaded with oil, which industry sources say could mean as much as two million barrels.
The 25-man crew, including British, Croatian, Polish, Filipino and Saudi crew members are reported to be safe, according to Dubai-based Vela International Marine.
The Saudi-owned vessel is the largest ship seized in the recent piracy crisis.