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Vela VLCC latest vessel hijacked near Gulf of Aden

Vela VLCC latest vessel hijacked near Gulf of Aden

Dubai:  Vela International Marine's recently launched VLCC Sirius Star (pictured) became the latest casualty of increased pirate activity in and around the Gulf of Aden. The 318,000-tonne vessel, launched in March this year, was taken after a stand off approximately 450 nautical miles off the southeast of Mombasa. At the time of capture, reports indicate that there were 25 crew members on board hailing from Croatia, Britain, Philippines, Poland and Saudi Arabia.

The threat of piracy has escalated over the past year, with 199 incidents of piracy or attempted piracy reported worldwide from January to September this year, of which 63 were in the Gulf of Aden and off the Somali coast, according to figures released by the International Maritime Bureau.

Details of this latest hijack come as Norwegian parcel tanker operator Odfjell has made the decision to avoid this area rather than "expose" its crew to the risk of being hijacked and held for ransom by pirates in the Gulf of Aden. "Unless we are explicitly committed by existing contracts to sail through this area, as from today we will re-route our ships around Cape of Good Hope," company president and ceo Terje Storeng is quoted as saying.

"The re-routing will entail extra sailing days and later cargo deliveries" he continued, adding. "This will incur significant extra cost, but we expect our customers' support and contribution. We trust our customers will appreciate this decision which we have taken to safeguard not only our crews and ships, but also the ships' cargo."

Odfjell is expected to resume sailing through the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal, "when sufficient protection is in place or action taken to prevent attacks from pirates in this area."  [17/11/08]