A major Norwegian shipping group on Tuesday ordered its more than 90 tankers to sail around Africa rather than use the Suez Canal after Somali pirates seized a Saudi supertanker carrying $100 million in crude.
The U.S. and other naval forces decided against intervening in the seizure of the supertanker. The pirates captured an Iranian cargo ship Tuesday, the seventh vessel seized in 12 days.
Odfjell SE said it made the decision to divert its ships after pirates seized the Saudi Arabian supertanker MV Sirius Star on Saturday hundreds of miles off the coast of Kenya, the most brazen attack yet by Somalian pirates.
“We will no longer expose our crew to the risk of being hijacked and held for ransom by pirates in the Gulf of Aden,” said Terje Storeng, Odfjell's president and chief executive. “Unless we are explicitly committed by existing contracts to sail through this area, as from today we will reroute our ships around Cape of Good Hope.”
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The Gulf of Aden, off Somalia, connects to the Red Sea, which in turn is linked to the Mediterranean by the Suez Canal. The route is thousands of miles and many days shorter than going around the Cape of Good Hope off the southern tip of Africa.
“This will incur significant extra cost, but we expect our customers' support and contribution,” said Storeng.
“Odfjell is frustrated by the fact that governments and authorities in general seem to take a limited interest in this very serious problem,” he added, describing the seizures as “ruthless, high-level organized crime.”
Pirates have seized dozens of ships off Somalia's coast in the last year, generally releasing them after ransoms were paid. NATO has three warships in the Gulf of Aden and the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet has ships in the region. But the MV Sirius Star was seized far from where they patrol.
While Somali pirates have seized 36 ships over the past year, among them a Ukrainian ship loaded with arms that is still being held, never had they seized a vessel as large as the Sirius Star and so far out to sea.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal called the hijacking “an outrageous act.”