Somali pirates seize tanker off coast of Madagascar

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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Somali pirates seized the Norwegian chemical tanker UBT Ocean off the coast of Madagascar yesterday, according to reports.

The Norwegian News Agency reports that the ship, which is Marshall Islands-flagged, has 21 crew members aboard.

Svenn Pedersen of the ship's owner, Broevigtank, said yesterday that "[t]he captain of the ship called us early this morning and told us: We have pirates on board. Very quickly afterwards we lost all contact with the boat." Pedersen commented that the tanker had taken a route to the south of where Somali pirates are usually active.

A spokesman for Nautictank, the ship's operator, commented that "[w]e are doing everything we can to establish contact and our sole concern right now is the safety of our crew. We have no contact whatsoever with the vessel, or the master, or the pirates."

The UBT Ocean was en route to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania from its departure port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates.

The waters off the coast of Somalia and the Indian Ocean are patrolled by an internationally operated naval force; however, it has not been able to entirely prevent pirate hijackings. Two days ago, pirates took a Saudi tanker from its position in the Gulf of Aden and sailed it to Garacad, Somalia.