20 November 2008 23:07 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS news)--Somali pirates have demanded $25m (€20m) in ransom for an oil tanker hijacked last week, a man claiming to represent the pirates told a news agency on Thursday.
Interviewed by Agence France Presse, a man who called himself Mohamed Said said there was a deadline for the Saudi owner of the Liberia-flagged MV Sirius Star.
"The Saudis have 10 days to comply, otherwise we will take action that could be disastrous," Said said. "We do not want long-term discussions to resolve the matter."
The Sirius Star is the largest ship ever hijacked, at 1,800 feet (549 meters) long, and is now anchored off Somalia near Haradheere, a pirate stronghold, according to the East African Seafarer's Association.
Maritime outlaws operating off the Horn of Africa have attacked more than 90 vessels this year - nine in the past 13 days - and successfully made more than £60m ($40m) from ransom demands, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
The Sirius Star's 2m bbl of oil is more than 25% of Saudi Arabia's daily exports and could provide France with one day's supply of oil. Its crude cargo has been valued as high as $115m, according to the Associated Press.
All of the vessel's 25 crew are safe, the ship's operator Vela International said. The vessel, known as a very large crude carrier (VLCC), had been heading for the US via the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa.
Last week, pirates hijacked three chemical tankers off the Horn of Africa and freed another. On Sunday pirates freed the Hong Kong-flagged Stolt Valor and its crew after a $1.1m ransom was paid, according to Reuters.
About 11% of the world's seaborne petroleum passes through the Gulf of Aden off Somalia.
AP Moller-Maersk on Thursday joined other tanker owners in ordering some of its ships to stop using the Suez Canal and instead reroute round the Cape of Good Hope due to the Somali pirates.
Maersk subsidiary Svitzer and leading chemical-tanker player Odfjell adopted a similar policy this week, and Frontline, Wallenius, BW Gas and Euronav have said that they are mulling the proposals.
($1 = €0.79 = £0.67)
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