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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Somali Pirates Escalate - Capture Ship 2 Miles of Oil Port in Oman

Calming of Monsoon winds in the Gulf of Adan at the end of August opens the Somali Pirate Season, and pirates captured a methanol ship waiting a berth in the Oman port of Salalah on Saturday. This is an escalation of the Somali Pirate war, since it was at an oil port inside Oman's territorial waters- watch now for an quick international response to this threat to the oil shipping lanes.

-Shimron Issachar

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MUMBAI/DUBAI (Reuters) - Somali pirates hijacked a chemical-oil tanker with 21 Indian sailors on board Saturday from near an Omani port, although the exact location was unconfirmed.

India's Directorate General of Shipping said the Fairchem Bogey, managed by Mumbai-based Anglo-Eastern Ship Management, was hijacked while anchored in Salalah port. A Salalah-based shipping source said the vessel was being loaded with methanol when it was seized.

The port's operator, APM Terminals, however, said pirates boarded the vessel while it was two miles off the coast of Oman, awaiting a berth, and comandeered it toward Somalia.

Andrew Mwangura, shipping editor of The Somalia Report, who is based in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa told Reuters the position of the hijacking showed the ship was inside Oman's territorial waters.

"It was captured six nautical miles south of Salalah so it is definitely inside Oman," he said, adding that a country's territorial waters usually stretch out 12 miles into the sea.

"If it is Somali pirates, it means they have a mother ship they are operating with. The high season for piracy has just started."

The end of the southwest monsoon winds in August marks the end of very turbulent high seas In the Gulf of Aden, making it easier for Somali pirates with small vessels to sail out and attack ships, Mwangura said.

Tom Boyd, director of external communications at APM Terminals, told Reuters there were no reported injuries or deaths among the crew, adding that the Omani government was negotiating with the pirates.

APM Terminals has a 30 percent share in Salalah port and operates it for the government.

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