Somali pirates in control of a 300,000-ton supertanker carrying $200 million worth of formerly U.S.-bound Iraqi crude have arrived off the coast of Somalia, the European Union naval force said Wednesday.
"The Marshall Islands flagged, crude oil tanker Samho Dream, previously reported hijacked approximately 600 nautical miles off the Somali coast in the early hours of 4 April has now arrived off the coast of Somalia," the E.U. force said in a statement.
The pirates hijacked the vessel Sunday. The tanker was being trailed by a South Korean destroyer, but the naval ship was keeping its distance.
''The reason why an assault is an extremely hazardous is you have to be able to suppress the pirates and take control back as fast as possible. If you don't take control fast, there is a greater risk to the crew,'' Graeme Gibbon Brooks of Dryad Maritime Intelligence told the Associated Press.
Agence France Presse reported that the tanker had been bound for Hobyo, "a pirate stronghold" 180 miles north of Mogadishu.
This is the latest in a string of pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden and surrounding waters. The bandits have captured nine ships in the last month alone. Last fall, Somali pirates captured the Greek-owned Maran Centaurus, which was carrying about $140 million worth of Saudi crude.
The hijackers have become so successful that they've even opened their own "pirate stock market" -- based in Haradheere, Somalia -- where locals can "invest" in pirate attacks in exchange for a slice of the booty.
The Samho Dream is owned by Samho Shipping Co. Ltd. of Pusan, South Korea.
The oil aboard the tanker is owned by Texas-based oil giant Valero Energy (VLO), but the company said it has been able to compensate for the supply disruption. "Because the cargo was still several weeks from arriving at the U.S. Gulf Coast, there is plenty of time to replace the supply," Day told Reuters. "It is not expected to have any impact on Valero operations."
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