Pirates attack Japanese oil tanker in Gulf of Aden

April 21st, 2008 - 7:17 pm ICT by admin  

Sana’a (Yemen), April 21 (DPA) Somali pirates opened fire at a Japanese oil tanker off Yemen’s territorial waters in the Gulf of Aden Monday, but there were no reports of casualties among crew. The vessel was hit by a rocket fired by the pirates sailing in a small boat at 04.40 a.m. (0140 GMT), Yemeni port and coast guard officials said.

Officials said the tanker was about 145 km off the south-eastern Yemeni port of Mukalla when it came under attack. The pirates had fired a rocket at the ship after they failed to seize it, the officials said.

Nippon Yusen KK, the owner of the vessel, said none of the 23-strong crew members - 16 Filipinos and seven Japanese - were hurt in the attack.

The ship, which has a capacity to carry around two million barrels of oil, was empty at the time of the attack, the company said.

Yemen’s official Saba news agency reported that Yemeni coast guard forces had “freed the Japanese oil tanker from Somali pirates”.

A source at the Japanese embassy in Sana’a earlier said the ship was slightly damaged and would continue its trip to the Saudi port of Jeddah on the Red Sea.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the tanker was six hours from the Yemeni port of Aden when it was attacked.

Piracy off the Somali coast - which lies at the mouth of the Red Sea - has been rife since the country slid into chaos after dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted by warlords in 1991.

Frequent pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden, a major trade route between Asia and Europe, has made those waters the world’s most dangerous for pirate activities.

The International Maritime Bureau has advised vessels that are not making scheduled calls to ports in Somalia to keep a distance of 200 nautical miles away from the Somali coast.

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