PIRACY | VLCC and product tanker escape hijacking off Somalia

A U-Ming-owned VLCC and a Hellespont tanker escaped hijacking after coming under pirate attack in a busy 24 hours off Somalia.

A Maersk Line boxship is also understood to have had a run in with pirates in the Indian Ocean on Wednesday.

Shots were fired at U-Ming’s 317,800-dwt Starlight Venture (built 2004) on Wednesday evening, TradeWinds has learned.

The attack on the Hong Kong-flagged vessel is said to have taken place around 1,000 miles off the Horn of Africa.

The Hellespont Protector was attacked in the Gulf of Aden on Thursday.

A spokesperson at Hong Kong-based Wah Kwong Ship Management, which operates the ship for the Taiwanese owner, confirmed the incident and that shots were fired but said the crew and ship are safe.

Early on Thursday morning pirates in two skiffs opened fire on Hellespont Ship Management’s 74,100-dwt products tanker Hellespont Protector (built 2007) in the Gulf of Aden.

The Liberia-flagged vessel was in a convoy at the time and naval vessels were immediately deployed to help prevent any hijacking.

There are no reports of any injury to the all-Filipino crew or damage to the ship. A statement sent to TradeWinds from Hamburg-based Hellespont, which manages the ship for London-based beneficial owner Papachristidis Ltd, confirmed the attack at around 05:30 UTC.

“The Hellespont Protector was attacked by a pirate boat whilst transiting the Gulf of Aden eastbound in a Thai National Navy convoy. When the attack occurred the master took evasive action to deter the pirates. The Thai Navy launched a helicopter in response to the request for assistance by the vessel.

“Although shots were fired…the vessel followed best management practices and the pirates were not able to board the vessel. They eventually stopped their efforts to capture the tanker. No injuries and no pollution were reported, the crew is safe and continuing with their passage.”

The 6,673-teu Maersk Karachi (built 1998) is also understood to have had a close shave with pirates in the Indian Ocean on Wednesday. It is not believed that any shots were fired at the UK-flagged boxship or that a boarding attempt was made. TradeWinds awaits a response to queries on the issue from its London-based manager Maersk Co Ltd.

The attack on the Starlight Venture is likely to prove of particular worry to the shipping as VLCCs are not usual the subject of such assaults.

Only three such crude carriers have been hijacked by pirates: Vela’s 318,000-dwt Sirius Star (built 2008) in November 2008, John Angelicoussis’ 300,300-dwt Maran Centaurus (built 1995) almost exactly a year later and the South Korean 319,400-dwt Samho Dream (built 2002) on 4 April this year. The last ship remains hijacked with 24 crew onboard.

K Line’s 300,000-dwt Isuzugawa (built 2004) sustained minor damage from an assault in the Arabian Sea also in April. Among the other VLCCs to have been attacked in 2009 were the 298,600-dwt BW Lion (built 2004), 281,400-dwt Smiti (built 2005) and 264,000-dwt A Elephant (built 1987).



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