IMO Head Urges Vigilance Following Bunker Tanker Hijacking Off Somalia

Pirates who seized a Comoros-flagged Aris 13 oil tanker have released the ship without conditions in the first seizure of such a vessel since 2012.

EU Naval Force maritime patrol aircraft is thought to be overlooking the hijacking and has tried to make contact with the ship's master.

The announcement came hours after the pirates and naval forces exchanged gunfire over a boat believed to be carrying supplies to the hijackers.

Steed said the pirates had left the Aris 13 ship, which was under control of the coast guard and on its way to the port city of Bossaso in the semi-autonomous Puntland region, on the northeastern tip of Somalia.

Two people in the Somali town of Haabo were wounded as naval forces traded fire with men trying to ferry supplies to the tanker.

Abdirahman Mohamud Hassan, the director general of the Puntland maritime force, said earlier that a regional governor, who was not named, had been appointed to negotiate with the pirates.

Village elders of Alula said the pirates had not made clear demands, but claimed to be driven by anger over illegal fishing.

In Sri Lanka, a spokesperson for AJ Shipping Private Limited which represents the Greek owner of the Aris 13 met with family members of the hostages.

In their heyday in 2011, Somali pirates launched 237 attacks off the coast of Somalia, data from the International Maritime Bureau showed, and held hundreds of hostages.

He said that all eight Sri Lankan crew members were in good health but that the authorities should immediately start negotiating with the pirates.

Oil tanker pirated of the Somali coast.

"If they do not get off, we shall fight to rescue the ship", Hassan told Reuters.

The oil tanker was seized on Monday while en route from Djibouti to the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

"The ship and crew will remain safe as long as no one attacks them", Hussein said by phone from an undisclosed location in northern Somalia.

Though anti-piracy measures ended attacks on commercial vessels, fishing boats have continued to face attacks.

A United Nations report seen by the AP in November said Somali pirates retain the capacity and intent to resume the attacks and lately have shifted to targeting smaller foreign fishing boats.

  • Elsie Buchanan