Pirates seize U.S.-bound oil tanker with $20M in crude

December 01, 2009

NAIROBI, Kenya - Crews on oil tankers aren't allowed to smoke above deck, much less carry guns, for fear of igniting the ship's payload. That's one of the main reasons Somali pirates met little resistance when they hijacked a U.S.-bound supertanker carrying $20 million in crude. The Greek-flagged tanker - traveling from Saudi Arabia to New Orleans - had no escort when it was hijacked Sunday because naval warships are stretched too thin. The problem has been further exacerbated because pirates have expanded their operations to hundreds of miles out at sea. The Maran Centaurus was about 800 miles off the coast of Somalia when it was hijacked with 28 crew, said Cmdr. John Harbour, a spokesman for the EU Naval Force. On Monday, it was headed toward Somalia's lawless coast, a location where pirates most likely will hold the vessel as they attempt to negotiate a multimillion-dollar ransom.

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