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Liberian vessel hijacked, 11 Indians on board

May 12, 2012 10:27 AM IST India India

Mumbai: Suspected Somali pirates have struck again. Liberian oil tanker MT Smymi has been hijacked by the suspected pirates off the coast of Oman.

Eleven Indians were among the crew members being held captive. The oil tanker was a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) and was carrying 1,35,000 tonnes of oil. The company owning the vessel is believed to be from Greece.

Pirates based on the coast of northern Somalia prey on vital international shipping lanes in the area.

The hijacking is thought to have happened about 630 km from the Omani coast. This was only the second voyage for the tanker, which first set to sea in 2011.

It is reported to have a crew of about 15 on board, composed of Indians and Filipinos. The tanker's capture comes after a recent fall in the number of hijackings in the region.

The drop has been attributed to plans by several countries to allow ships using their flags to sail with armed guards.

It has not been reported, however, whether the Smymi had such guards on board. EU naval ships are currently on patrol off the Horn of Africa in an effort to protect vessels.

Pirates in Somalia, which has no effective central authority, often receive millions of dollars in ransom in return for hijacked ships.

According to the International Maritime Organisation, 17 ships and close to 300 crew are currently held by Somali pirates.

The worst seems to be the case of MV Iceberg-1 remained captive. It has now become the longest-held ship by Somali pirates. These sailors have spent over two years in captivity since March 2010.

(With additional information from PTI)

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