Somali pirates hijacked a Saudi-owned ship with a crew of 14 in the Gulf of Aden this week, a Kenyan maritime official said today.
Pirates said they had also seized a fishing vessel.
Andrew Mwangura of the East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme said the 5136 deadweight tonne al Nisr al Saudi was seized on Monday and was now off the Somali coast.
Pirates also told Reuters they had captured a fishing vessel in the Indian Ocean, but no further details were immediately available.
Mwangura said the Saudi tanker was on its way from Japan to Jeddah with one Greek and Sri Lankan crew of 13.
Emboldened by rising ransom payments, Somali pirates have stepped up attacks in recent months, making tens of millions of dollars by seizing vessels in the Indian Ocean and the busy Gulf of Aden shipping lanes.
The armed pirate gangs operate far out to sea and have managed to dodge naval warships deployed to combat their activities by casting their nets as far south as the Seychelles.
Foreign navies have been deployed off the Gulf of Aden since the start of 2009 and have operated convoys, as well as setting up a transit corridors through the most dangerous waters.
But their forces have been stretched over the vast expanses of water, including the Indian Ocean, leaving merchant vessels vulnerable.
Pic: Somali pirates