Pirates hijack Singapore-bound oil tanker


Pirates firing rocket-propelled grenades and small arms hijacked an oil tanker bound for Singapore from Sudan yesterday, the European Union’s anti-piracy task force said.

“At approximately 0900 (GMT) on 28 March, the Crude Oil Tanker the MV ZIRKU was pirated approximately 250 nautical miles southeast of Salalah in the eastern part of the Gulf of Aden,” EU Navfor said on its website.

It was not immediately clear whether the tanker, which the website said was Kuwaiti-owned, was fully laden with crude. Sudan is an oil-exporting country.

In Kuwait, officials denied the tanker was Kuwaiti-owned.

A Gulf industry source said the vessel was owned and operated by the Arab Maritime Petroleum Transport Company, which provides transport services for members of the Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC).

The company could not be immediately reached for comment.

Tankers are a prized catch for ransom-seeking Somali pirates who operate as far south as Madagascar and as far east as a few hundred miles off India.

Somali pirates early last month grabbed a US-bound super tanker carrying a crude oil cargo worth an estimated $200 million.

Somalia has lacked an effective central government for two decades, allowing armed gangs to stalk the strategic waterways off the Horn of Africa nation and rake in tens of millions of dollars in booty each year.

EU Navfor said the tanker’s 29-strong crew included one Croatian, 17 Pakistani nationals, one Iraqi, one Filipino, one Indian, three Jordanians, three Egyptians and two Ukranians.