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Details of Thursday’s hijacking in the Arabian Sea of the MT Smyrni are starting to trickle in, including information about the vessel and its crew. The hijacking marks the first successful attack of first successful attack on an oil tanker by Somali pirates since February 2011 and was the culmination of an alarming string of attacks over the last few days carried out by Somali pirates. Here’s an update on what we know so far:
About the MT Smyrni
The MT Smyrni is a Liberian-flagged Suezmax tanker managed by Dynacom Tankers Management Ltd. of Greece. Dynacom says that the tanker is loaded with 135,000 MT of crude oil and media reports have indicated that the vessel was sailing from Turkey but there is currently conflicting information about its destination.
The vessel has a crew of 26 of mixed nationalities who were all taken hostage in the attack. So far, there has been no communication with the ship or crew since the hijacking. Reports indicate that although Liberian-flagged vessels are permitted to have armed guards, the MT Smyrni did not have a security team onboard when it was hijacked.
The vessel has a top speed of 9 knots and a freeboard of 7.7m.
The attack on the MT Smyrni occurred at 0923 UTC (or 1115 UTC according to Dynacom) in position 15:58N – 061:02E, approximately 250nm SE of Ras Al Madrakan, Oman.
According to a report by the International Maritime Bureau, ten pirates armed with automatic weapons aboard two skiffs chased the MT Smyrni while underway. The Smyrni increased speed and made evasive maneuvers as the pirates approached, first managing to evade boarding attempts by the skiffs. The pirates however, who were operating from a nearby mothership, regrouped and launched a second attack on the vessel. This time the pirates managed to successfully board the ship and take hostage of the crew.
The tanker is reported to be heading for Somalia.
We have seen a surge of recent attacks over the last few days in the general vicinity of the Smyrni hijacking.
Earlier on Thursday, a tanker evaded an attack while underway approximately 262nm ENE of Socotra Island, Yemen. The IMB report states that six pirates in a skiff approached and fired upon a tanker underway from a distance of 500 meters, but were turned away after an armed security team aboard the vessel returned fire at the skiffs.
On Wednesday, reports came of a violent attack against an unidentified crude tanker underway approximately 345nm ESE of Socotra Island, Yemen. The pirates in that attack allegedly fired over 300 AK47 rounds and 7 RPG rounds at the vessel from a distance of just 50 meters. The vessel in that attack was able to avoid being boarded but did sustain damage.
OceanUSLive.com says that a third attack did occur in the same area since May 9th, however this has not been confirmed by the IMB as of yet.
SomaliaReport.com indicates that at least three seperate pirate gangs left Somalia last week in search of targets. It is not clear if the recent surge of attacks were all carried out by the same group of pirates, or if they were operating seperately. SomaliaReport.com says it is investigating who responsible for the Smyrni hijacking and we will report back here if we find out.
Authorities warn that the group, or groups, of pirates still pose a threat to vessels in the area and could possibly carry out more attacks.
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