Somalian pirates grab oil tanker, 24-man crew

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Somalian pirates grab oil tanker, 24-man crew

The Korean Navy ordered a destroyer to rescue a Korean oil tanker hijacked off the coast of Somalia and its 24-person crew of five Koreans and 19 Filipinos.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the 4,400-ton destroyer Yi Sun-sin, named for Admiral Yi Sun-sin of the Joseon Dynasty, was dispatched eight hours after the kidnapping was reported. It is expected to catch up with the tanker by early today. The destroyer has around 300 personnel, including an underwater demolition team.

The Korean government said its top priority is the crew’s safety.

“The pirates have not yet asked for negotiations,” said an official at the foreign ministry. “Looking at past instances, the government will not take part in any negotiations with the pirates in case it might endanger the lives of the hostages.”

The Samho Dream, a 300,000-ton ship on its way to Louisiana in the United States from Iraq, was seized at around 4:10 p.m. on Sunday (Korean time) in the Indian Ocean.

According to the ministry, the hijacking took place about 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) southeast of the Gulf of Aden, where the Korean Navy is currently operating the anti-piracy Cheonghae unit. The Yi Sun-sin is from that unit.

The foreign ministry set up a task force after the news broke and held an emergency meeting with officials from related ministries yesterday afternoon. The names of the abducted Korean crew members have not been disclosed due to “concerns for their safety,” said a senior official at the foreign ministry.

The ship, owned by Busan-based Samho Shipping Company, is registered in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. The company said it also believes the ship has been hijacked and that it will do its best to see that the crew returns safely.

The waters off Somalia see frequent pirate activity and some ships are accompanied by private or government escorts. The Samho Dream had no escort because the area it was in had relatively less pirate activity, according to Samho Shipping.

The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs issued a warning that Korean ships need to take extra precautions when near the Somali coast.

By Cho Jae-eun, Jeong Yong-soo []
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