Friday, January 9, 2009

Ransom Paid, Somali Pirates Expected to Release Supertanker

In this November 19, 2008 file photo, the Sirius Star is at anchor off the coast of Harardhere, Somalia, as seen by a U.S. Navy aircraft flying overhead. The ship was attacked Nov. 15 more than 450 miles off the East coast of Africa, and was forced to proceed to an anchorage in Somali territorial waters (U.S. Navy photo by Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 2nd Class William S. Stevens.)

Dispatches from the Front:

MANAMA, Bahrain, Jan. 9, 2008 -- A news release from Combined Maritime Forces Public Affairs made available Friday states that it appears Somali pirates have received payment for the very large crude tanker Sirius Star. The Liberian-flagged tanker, owned by the Saudi Arabian-based Saudi Aramco, and operated by Vela International was attacked more than 450 nautical miles off the African coast on Nov. 15. The crew of 25 Croatian, British, Philippine, Polish and Saudi Arabian merchant mariners have been held hostage since the attack. It is expected that the ship will get underway from its current location within the next 24 hours.

Word of the pending release comes just one day after the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), headquartered in Bahrain, announced the establishment of Combined Task Force (CTF) 151. This multinational task force will conduct counter-piracy operations in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. These efforts in coordination with those taken by the shipping industry and the international community will collectively impact this maritime criminal activity.

Naval ships and assets from more than 20 nations comprise the CMF. The CMF created the Maritime Security Patrol Area (MSPA) in the Gulf of Aden in August 2008 to support international efforts to combat piracy. Since that time, ships and aircraft from the CMF and other international navies have been patrolling the area of this recommended traffic corridor. Merchant mariners have been actively encouraged to travel through the International Maritime Organization-designated traffic corridor and employ reasonable self-protection measures to deter piracy attempts.

"While the potential release of the Sirius Star is undoubtedly excellent news, we must not forget that nearly three hundred other merchant mariners are still being held captive. The men who attacked the ship and held the crew hostage are armed criminals and consequently, we must remain steadfast in our efforts to address the international problem of piracy," said Commodore Tim Lowe, deputy CMF commander.

The area involved off the coast of Somalia and Kenya as well as the Gulf of Aden equals more than 1.1 million square miles. That is roughly four times the size of the U.S. state of Texas or the size of the Mediterranean and Red Seas combined.

(Report from a Combined Maritime Forces Public Affairs news release.)

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