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Thai navy pursues pirates
Sunday, May 13, 2012
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Somali pirates have captured a Liberian-flagged tanker carrying about 135,000 tonnes of oil for PTT Plc in the Gulf of Aden.
The hijacking of the MT Smyrni, owned by Dynacom Tankers Management of Greece, marks the first successful seizure since February of last year.
The seizure was reported to the Navy Operations Centre by Combined Task Force 151 (CTF-151), which is under the command of the Royal Thai Navy's Counter Piracy Task Group Commander Rear Admiral Thanin Likhitwong.
Rear Adm Thanin has reported that CTF-151 ships are pursuing the pirates but no operations have been launched due to concerns for crew safety.
It was reported the vessel has a crew of 26 and there has been no communication from the pirates or the crew since the hijacking.
The oil tanker originated from Turkey but there are conflicting reports about its destination. MT Smyrni is said to have no security personnel on board even though Liberian-flagged vessels are permitted to deploy armed guards.
No Thais were in the crew, but there were reportedly nine Indians and "about" eight Filipinos aboard the hijacked vessel.
Dynacom, the vessel's manager, said it had lost contact with the crew of the MT Smyrni, a Suezmax-class tanker, following the attack off Oman at 8:15 p.m. Thailand time (11:15 GMT) on Thursday.
"The Liberian-flagged Tanker, the M/T Smyrni, is carrying a cargo of 135,000 MT of crude oil," it said in a media release.
Suezmax tankers typically can transport a crude oil cargo of up to one million barrels, compared with 2 to 3 million barrels for very large oil tankers.
Dynacom gave no further details but Kenya-based piracy expert Andrew Mwangura said the vessel was headed for the Somali coastline. Industry websites said the vessel had sailed from Turkey, but there were mixed reports about its destination.
"Aboard are nine Indians and about eight Filipinos," Mwangura, who is maritime editor of Somalia Report, said.
"It is headed to Somalia," he added.
Meanwhile, a source said that the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Fort Victoria, on which 16 Thai naval officers are working, is en route to the Seychelle islands in the Indian Ocean.
Supreme Commander Gen Thanasak Patimapakorn and navy chief Admiral Surasak Runroengrom are scheduled to meet them on board the British ship on May 20.
It is reported Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will approve a plan for Thailand to continue being part of the Combined Task Forces which has been formed to fight piracy in the Gulf of Aden when Rear Adm Thanin's unit is relieved in July.
Ms Yingluck is scheduled to have a teleconference with the Thai naval officers during her four-day visit to Bahrain and Qatar scheduled between May 13-16.
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