Monday, November 17, 2008

Tanker may have been freed, reports say

The Sirius Star [pic:]

Unconfirmed reports from al-Arabiya TV suggest the crew and tanker, hijacked in the Indian Ocean, has "been freed". The one line of information could not be verified by Sky News with quoted Reuters who in turn had disseminated a report from the Arabic news station. Further details emerged earlier about the super tanker hijacked by pirates near to the coast of Africa. Sky's Tim Marshall said their were several problems facing NATO in attempting to launch a rescue. Speaking on the News channel he said the vessel, which he described as being as large as three US aircraft carriers, was actually in the Indian Ocean, not in the Arabian Sea as the BBC reported earlier. The vessel had minimal security on board and would have been unlikely to have been able to repel a concerted attack. At least 30 vessels have been hijacked this year alone on the high seas. There have also been around 75 attempted hijacks and only last week the British Royal Navy killed several hijackers as they launched a rescue mission. But the Sky correspondent said that it was “not an easy situation” for NATO.

There were issues over the “rules of engagement” as well as the fact that much of the NATO fleet was situated in the Arabian sea. There was also the issue of launching an attack on a vessel which in effect was a massive bomb with 2 dozen hostages on board. According to latest reports, 20 are believed to be Philippine nationals, 2 are British, and the other three are Indian, Polish and Croatian.

The Saudi Arabian owned Sirius Star, which is flagged under Liberia, left port and began its maiden voyage in March. According to the Vela Tanker Construction Department the vessel was built to the latest maritime regulations and to Vela’s safe, reliable, and environmentally friendly specifications to ensure the reliable transportation of Saudi Aramco’s crude oil to its customers. Launched and named at the Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering Co. Ltd. shipyards in South Korea, the event marked the first time that a Saudi woman had performed a Vela naming ceremony. Vela Board member Huda M. Ghoson, who is Saudi Aramco’s director of Human Resources Policy and Planning, was given the honour of naming the new ship. Also in attendance were Won-Kang Ki, senior executive vice president and Chief Productions Officer of Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering Co. Ltd., and Saud A. Bukhari, manager of the Vela Tanker Construction Department, plus team members from Dubai and the Korea site office. Vela released a statement via its website today which read, "The Sirius Star, an oil tanker belonging to Dubai-based Vela International Marine Ltd., was seized by a group of armed men approximately 420 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia on Sunday. All 25 crew members on board are reported to be safe and the vessel is fully laden. Vela response teams have been established and are working to ensure the safe release of the crew members and the vessel" [Sky News / BBC / CNN].

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