18 Nov 2008

Pirates capture Saudi oil tanker

9:52 am on 18 November 2008

Pirates have seized a giant Saudi-owned oil tanker in the Indian Ocean off the Kenyan coast and are steering it towards Somalia.

The US Navy reports the tanker was taken on Saturday some 450 nautical miles south-east of the port of Mombasa, and is now approaching the Somali port of Eyl.

The Sirius Star is carrying its full load of 2 million barrels - more than a quarter of Saudi Arabia's daily output. Its international crew of 25 is said to be safe.

The BBC reports that it is the third tanker to have been hijacked in the region.

Attacks on shipping off the Horn of Africa and Kenya by pirates, who are mostly Somali, prompted foreign navies to send warships to the area this year.

The Sirius Star was sailing under the Liberian flag at the time.

Figures from the International Maritime Bureau show that attacks in the area - the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean off the African coast - made up one-third of all piracy incidents worldwide in 2008.

In the first nine months of the year, 63 incidents were reported. As of 30 September, 12 vessels remained captive and under negotiation with more than 250 crew being held hostage.

The Sirius Star is owned by the Saudi company Aramco. It made its maiden voyage in March 2008. The ship is 330m (1,080ft) long and is classed as a Very Large Crude Carrier.

It was built in South Korea's Daewoo shipyards.