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Somali officials have confirmed reports about a tanker hijacking by local pirates in the Indian Ocean, although there is still no final clarity as to what flag the vessel was sailing under. This is the first successful hijacking of a vessel by Somali pirates in three years, as pirate attacks declined steadily.
At least eight pirates were involved in the attack, VOA reports, and the tanker was taken to the coast of the Puntland region. No other details have been released so far.
Somali piracy became a serious problem for the shipping industry in the early 2000s, turning into a major crisis by 2010, when the pirates were hijacking a few vessels every month – a total of 49 in 2010 and 31 in 2011 – and demanding multi-million-dollar ransoms to release them and their crews.
Since the Horn of Africa is part of a major maritime route, there was never a shortage of targets, and piracy bloomed until 2012 when the combined efforts of international navy fleets and the shipping companies, which strengthened the defense of their vessels by employing armed guards, seriously dampened hijacking activities.
Previously, the area of pirate activity covered a lot of sea, stretching from the Horn of Africa into the Arabian Sea, all the way to India and Madagascar. One of the key points in this area from an energy industry perspective is the Gulf of Aden, home to one of the eight biggest oil shipment routes in the world, lying between Yemen and Somalia. The Bab el-Mandeb channel sees 3.8 million barrels of crude pass through it every day.
Several navy fleets are patrolling the Gulf of Aden as a precaution against pirating, and some local fleets such as Iran’s regularly escort their tankers across the area to secure the shipments.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.