Pirates hijack Malaysian tanker off Somalia coast

August 20th, 2008 - 4:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Nairobi, Aug 20 (Xinhua) Armed pirates have seized a Malaysian tanker carrying palm oil in the Gulf of Eden off the coast of Somalia, regional maritime officials said Wednesday.Andrew Mwangura of the East Africa Seafarers Assistance Program said the Malaysian-flagged chemical tanker MT Bunga Melati Dua is believed to have a crew of more than 20, mostly Malaysians and Filipinos.

“Reports we have received indicate the Malaysian tanker was hijacked Tuesday,” Mwangura said.

The Malaysian tanker was carrying palm oil from Indonesia to Rotterdam, the Netherlands, when it was seized, he said.

A distress signal was received and the ship is now thought to be en route to coastal waters near Somalia.

The International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre said no direct contact could be made with the captain of the ship.

The latest seizure is the fourth hijacking to have taken place in a month. Pirate attacks on vessels and yachts sailing in the major shipping route close to Somalia have surged recently.

The Gulf of Aden, where many of the attacks take place, links the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean and is part of one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

The global maritime body has advised merchant ships to stay at least 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the country’s coast.

Somali authorities have publicly blamed Western firms for paying hefty ransoms and thus encouraging more hijackings. Some pirates have been arrested in connection with the attacks, but that has failed to halt the hijackings.

The US and France have introduced a UN resolution that would allow foreign countries to chase and arrest pirates off Somalia’s coast. Somalia has no navy and is unable to police its own shores.

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