Suspected Somali pirates captured the Greek-flagged Irene SL yesterday morning off the coast of Oman.
The hijacking came a day after an Italian tanker carrying oil worth more than £40million was snatched by Somali pirates, reinforcing industry fears that piracy is ‘spinning out of control’.
Irene SL was sailing 200 nautical miles (360 kilometres) east of Oman with a cargo of 266,000 tons of crude oil and a crew of seven Greeks, 17 Filipinos and one Georgian when it was attacked.
Somali Pirates Hijack Second Tanker In Two DaysFebruary 9 – An oil tanker flying under Greek flag was hijacked Wednesday in the North Arabian Sea, 350 nautical miles off the coast of Oman. The value of the cargo is estimated to be $150 to $200 million.
Sailing from Kuwait, the tanker was bound for the Gulf of Mexico and is the second in as many days to be captured by Somali pirates who currently hold 29 ships and over 600 hostages for ransom.
The tanker, MV Irene SL, has a crew of twenty-five seven Greek, one Georgian, and seventeen Filipinos and is carrying 266,000 tons of crude. So far, there has been no contact with the ship, according to European Union and Greek Naval officials.
MV Savina Caylyn was seized by five pirates attacking from a skiff on Tuesday after an extended bombardment on the ship using grenades and small arms fire. The oil tanker, sailing under Italian flag, was en route to Malaysia from Sudan.
There are concerns that if the piracy issues are not contained, especially along key shipping routes, that the flow of oil could be seriously disrupted. Also of concern are the emboldened actions by the pirates, staging an attack in a highly traveled sea-lane.
Due to increased attacks along the Suez Canal corridor, some tankers are using an alternate route sailing south around Africa, which extends travel time to U.S. ports by around 12 days.
NAIROBI, Kenya February 9, 2011, 11:43 pm ET
Somali pirates captured a Greek-flagged supertanker carrying an estimated $150 million worth of oil to the Gulf of Mexico, the second successful attack against an oil tanker by sea bandits in two days, officials said.
Such vessels can command higher ransoms because of the value of the crude on board. Owners of the oil may want to resolve hostage situations quickly, particularly if oil prices are dropping, a situation that can cost owners millions of dollars more than the pirate ransom will.
Still, ransom prices are on the rise. One last year reached $9.5 million, and the increasing prizes have provided even more incentive for pirates to launch attacks despite stepped-up patrols by an international flotilla of warships.
Pirates hold 29 ships and roughly 660 hostages.
The Irene SL was sailing 200 nautical miles (360 kilometers) east of Oman with a cargo of 266,000 tons of crude oil and a crew of seven Greeks, 17 Filipinos and one Georgian when it was attacked on Wednesday, Greece's Merchant Marine Ministry said. The Associated Press estimated the value of the oil at more than $150 million, based on the amount being carried and a price of $87 a barrel.
The tanker was sailing from the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Mexico. The ministry said authorities had lost contact with the ship since the attack.
The Piraeus-based shipping company First Navigation Special Maritime Enterprises confirmed its ship had been attacked but had no further comment.
The Irene SL was the second oil tanker to be attacked in that region in two days. On Tuesday, Somali pirates firing small arms and rocket-propelled grenades hijacked an Italian-flagged oil tanker in the Indian Ocean that had been heading from Sudan to Malaysia.
Meanwhile, South Korea's foreign ministry said pirates on Wednesday released a South Korean fishing vessel that was captured nearly four months ago while fishing for crabs. The ministry said 39 Kenyans, two South Koreans and two Chinese sailors were aboard the Keummi 305. The ship was last reported sailing away from Somalia toward international waters.
A vessel from the EU Naval Force was sailing toward the ship to secure the safety of sailors at the request of a South Korean navy vessel, the ministry said. The 241-ton Kenya-registered trawler was attacked Oct. 9 in the waters off Kenya's Lamu Island.
No information about a ransom was reported, but pirates only release ships after being paid.
British Royal Navy Lt. Cmdr. Susie Thomson, a spokeswoman for the multinational Task Force 152 based in Bahrain, said that pirates have been waging attacks increasingly deeper into the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean.
Pirates have launched attacks more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) east of Somalia.