Somali pirates have seized a Greek-flagged oil tanker near the Seychelles, more than 700 miles off the coast of Somalia, Greece’s coastguard said today.
The 300,294-dwt Maran Centaurus was sailing from Kuwait to the Gulf of Mexico with a crew of 28 when it was seized early yesterday.
"About nine armed pirates attacked the tanker and seized it, 700 miles off the Somali coast, near the Seychelles," said a coastguard official who requested anonymity.
The official said there were nine Greeks, two Ukrainians, one Romanian and 16 Filipinos on board the tanker.
Maran Tankers Management, the Greek managing company, said the ship was now heading towards the Somali coast. "We only know that the crew is well," a company official who did not want to be identified told Reuters.
A Greek navy frigate, taking part in the EU naval operation against piracy in the region, was shadowing the tanker, the Greek Defence Ministry said.
Heavily armed gangs from Somalia have made tens of millions of dollars in ransoms by seizing ships using the strategic shipping lanes that link Europe to Asia.
Pirates say ship crew to die if China tries rescue
Somali pirates warned today they would kill the crew of a Chinese bulk carrier if China’s navy attempted to wrest control of the vessel from them.
In a statement read to Reuters over the phone, one of the pirates holding the 25 crew members of the coal ship De Xin Hai, seized in mid-October, said they had heard the Chinese navy was planning a rescue mission.
"We know they have arrayed their warships in Somalia waters to attack us," pirate Nur said, reading the statement from on board the ship.
"There have been negotiations between us and the Chinese to release the ship and we are not ignorant about their deception.
"We are telling them not to gamble with the lives of the Chinese teenagers in our hands. Honestly, we will kill if we are attacked."
Earlier this month, one pirate said his gang and owners of the vessel were discussing a $3.5 million ransom.
The Chinese bulk vessel was hijacked with 76 000 tonnes of coal and is owned by the Qingdao Ocean Shipping Co.