Russian warship frees hijacked ‘Moscow University’ oil tanker

May 6th, 2010 - 2:44 pm ICT by BNO News  

BRUSSELS (BNO NEWS) — A Liberian-flagged, Russian-owned oil tanker was freed during a dramatic rescue operation in the Indian Ocean on Thursday, officials said.

The “Moscow University” oil tanker was hijacked by a group of pirates approximately 350 nautical miles east of the Yemeni island of Socatra on Wednesday. The ship was heading from the Red Sea to China and was carrying a total of 86.000 tones of crude oil.

On Thursday, the 23 crew members - all Russians - locked themselves into the “rudder compartment” of the ship, separated from the pirates. A Maritime Patrol aircraft made contact with the crew several hours later to confirm they were safe, according to the European Union Naval Force Somalia.

Since the oil tanker was first hijacked on early Wednesday, the Russian warship ‘Marshal Shaposhidov’ was nearing the location at full speed to intervene. European Naval forces in the region offered support to the ship and European Union Naval Force Maritime Patrol aircraft were put on alert - in case they were asked to assist.

Early on Wednesday, the warship arrived at the oil tanker Moscow University’s position and sent a helicopter to investigate the situation. When the helicopter neared the ship, the pirates holding the ship opened fire.

The Russian warship then returned fire on the pirates, leading to their surrender. A Russian boarding crew boarded the oil tanker and captured all pirates on board. All crew members were freed by the team and were uninjured.

The Novorossiysk Shipping Company, which owns the ship, confirmed the crew’s release and expressed its ’sincere gratitude’ to the Russian Navy and to the crew members on board the ‘Marshal Shaposhidov.’ It said the rescue operation was carried out because the Navy was confident that the crew was in a safe place, inaccessible to pirates.

The ‘Moscow University’ was build in 1999 and has a dead weight of 106,474 tones. It was not registered with the Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa (MSCHOA) for their transit through the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor.

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