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Pirates fire at oil tanker on vital crude route

ANTHONY DIPAOLA

LONDON (Bloomberg) -- Armed people on a skiff attacked an oil tanker as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important trade route for crude shipments, a group monitoring piracy at sea said.

The unidentified attackers fired twice by machine gun at the tanker’s accommodation area and bridge at about 2:15 p.m. local time yesterday, according to a notice on the London-based International Maritime Bureau’s website. The craft aborted its attack after the vessel made evasive maneuvers. U.S. and European military authorities are investigating, Lt. Commander David Benham, a spokesman for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Allied Maritime Command, said today.

The Strait of Hormuz is a transit channel for about 17 MMbbl of crude daily, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which ranks the trade lane as the world’s most important chokepoint for oil. NATO coordinates naval vessels to protect commercial ships from Somali pirates operating in the adjoining Indian Ocean and nearby Gulf of Aden.

“We have no reason to believe it’s related to Somali piracy,” Benham said by phone from Northwood, England. “Most pirate attacks take place in the main commercial shipping corridor in the Indian Ocean.”

The NATO Shipping Centre, which shares piracy alerts with commercial ships, said the vessel attacked yesterday used fire hoses to deter the smaller craft, which turned away after coming to within five meters of its target. Two other merchant ships reported being approached in or near Hormuz yesterday, according to separate reports on the center’s website.

Two green-colored skiffs carrying three to four armed people in military clothing came to within 150 m of one vessel before turning toward the Iranian coast. Another vessel took evasive action outside the Strait for about 25 minutes after two smaller craft neared it. One of the smaller ships was seen carrying a ladder.

The only other incident reported in the past year near Hormuz was on March 6 when a merchant vessel was approached in the Gulf of Oman by three skiffs, according to the NATO Website.

03/31/2014

 

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