27 March 2009 20:05 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS news)--Two chemical tankers seized by pirates earlier this week in the Indian Ocean were being taken to the hijackers' Somali havens, maritime officials said on Friday.
The 23,000-tonne MT Bow Asir, loaded with caustic soda, and the 9,000-tonne MT Nipayia, believed empty, were being taken to pirate bases at Eyl or Hobyo on Somalia's eastern Indian Ocean coastline, said Andrew Mwangura, coordinator of the East African Seafarers Assistance Programme, according to Deutsche Welle news.
However, a broker had earlier told ICIS that the MT Nipayia carried lubes.
The seizure of the vessels shows that the pirates have moved their attacks outside the heavily patrolled Gulf of Aden, the gateway to the Suez Canal.
The seizures of the two chemical tankers within 24 hours on Wednesday and Thursday marked the biggest hijackings since international naval forces deployed en masse at the end of 2008 to protect the region's busy sea lanes.
In the wake of the incidents, Greece, which is home to the biggest commercial fleet in the world, called on the EU "to play a more active role" in cracking down on piracy, The Australian reported.
Merchant Marine Minister Anastasis Papaligouras was quoted in The Australian as saying that the EU should "expand the rules of engagement and the area patrolled by the European naval force".
Commander Jane Campbell of the US 5th fleet said both hijackings took place in a vast Indian Ocean expanse. "This activity highlights the complexity of even trying to monitor an area this size," she said to Fox News.
The owner of the Bow Asir, Salhus Shipping AS, told Reuters that it had received a security alert from the ship on Thursday saying it was being chased by two small boats with suspected pirates.
Three hours later, according to Reuters, the shipping firm received an email from the Bow Asir confirming that 16-18 pirates carrying machine guns had gained control, managing director Per Hansen said in a statement. "We have no reports of any injuries," Hansen said.
A spokesman for the Norwegian Shipowners' Association said the company had received no ransom demands yet from the pirates Reuters reported.
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