20 Nov 2008

Saudi tanker owners talking to pirates

6:16 am on 20 November 2008

The owners of a Saudi Arabian oil tanker hijacked by Somali pirates are negotiating a possible ransom.

The Sirius Star is the biggest tanker ever hijacked, carrying a cargo of two million barrels of oil - worth more than $US100 million.

Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal did not confirm whether a ransom was likely to be agreed, but said talks had begun.

Prince Saud al-Faisal also said Saudi Arabia is going to join a task force to try and eradicate what he called "this threat to international trade."

Shipping companies are now weighing up the risks of using the short-cut route to Europe via the Gulf of Aden and Suez canal.

However, travelling around South Africa's Cape of Good Hope will add several weeks to average journey times and substantially increase the cost of goods for consumers.

Meanwhile, the Indian navy says it has sunk a suspected pirate "mother ship".

INS Tabar sank what was believed to be a Somali pirate "mother ship" after it failed to stop for investigation and instead opened fire in the Gulf of Aden.