A Malaysian tanker carrying palm oil has been seized off the coast of Somalia, regional maritime sources said Thursday. The vessel and more than 20 crew members were seized in the Gulf of Eden, according to the East Africa Seafarers Assistance Programme official, Andrew Mwangura.
Mwangura, who is based in the Kenya port city of Mombasa, said the bulk of the captured crew, who were manning the chemical tanker, MV Bunga Melati Dua, are believed to be Malyasians and Filipinos.
“Reports we have received indicated the Malaysian tanker was hijacked on Tuesday,” Mwangura said.
The Malaysian-registered tanker was carrying palm oil from Indonesia to Rotterdam, Netherlands, when it was attacked, he said.
A distress signal was received and the ship is now thought to be en-route to coastal waters near Somalia.
The International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre said no direct contact had been made with the captain of the ship.
The latest seizure is the fourth hijacking to have taken place in a month. Pirate attacks on vessels and yachts sailing the major shipping route close to Somali a have surged of late.
The Gulf of Aden, where many of the attacks take place, links the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, forming one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
The global maritime body advises merchant ships to stay at least 200 nautical miles from the country’s coast.
Somali authorities have publicly blamed Western firms for paying hefty ransoms, thereby encouraging more hijackings.
Some pirates have been arrested in connection with the attacks, but that has failed to deter the hijackers.
The United States and France have introduced a UN resolution that would allow foreign countries to chase and arrest pirates off Somalia’s coast.
Somalia has no navy and is unable to police its own shores. The Horn of Africa nation, which has not had an effective central government for more than 17 years, is plagued by insecurity.