Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Pirates Seize Russian Oil Tanker; Warship Responds

By Anastasia Ustinova and Rob Verdonck

May 5 (Bloomberg) -- A Liberia-flagged oil tanker with 23 Russian crewmembers aboard was hijacked by pirates in the Gulf of Aden, and a Russian warship is en route to the scene, the European Union’s anti-piracy force said.

The tanker Moscow University, with a dead weight of 106,474 metric tons, was sailing to China with a cargo of 86,000 tons of crude oil, the Russian operator, OAO Novorossiysk Sea Shipping Co., known as Novoship, said in an e-mailed statement today. Armed men in speed boats attacked the tanker at about 8 a.m. Moscow time about 350 nautical miles east of Socotra, Yemen, EU Navfor said on its website.

“As of the last communication with the captain, the crew members are alive, the tanker and cargo are not damaged,” Novoship said in a statement on its website.

Piracy and armed robbery at sea reached a six-year peak in 2009 with Somalia accounting for more than half of the 406 attacks, according to the UN International Maritime Bureau. Somali pirates mounted 217 attacks last year, hijacking 47 ships and taking 867 crew members hostage, the London-based bureau said in January.

Novoship alerted naval forces in the region and is communicating with the Russian warship Marshal Shaposhnikov.

The Russian Foreign Ministry is doing “everything it can to save the sailors” and will call on Russian officials in the area to help with an investigation, ministry spokesman Igor Lyakin-Frolov said on state television.

--Editor: Patrick G. Henry

To contact the reporter responsible for this story: Anastasia Ustinova in St. Petersburg at; Rob Verdonck in London at

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