S.Korea Destroyer Reaches Tanker Seized by Pirates

A South Korean navy destroyer has caught up with a supertanker hijacked by pirates that was cruising towards the Somali coast with a cargo of crude oil worth as much as $170 million, an official said on Tuesday.

The South Korean-operated, Singapore-owned Samho Dream, which can carry more than 2 million barrels of crude, was seized on Sunday en route from Iraq to the United States, in the latest sign that the sea gangs are targeting bigger quarry. [ID:nLDE633091]

The destroyer, equipped with weapons that can hit targets as far as 32 km (20 miles) away and a Lynx combat helicopter on board, was shadowing the tanker as it headed for East Africa, a South Korean official said.

The operator Samho Shipping denied reports that it has been in contact with the pirates or started negotiations for the release of the crew and the ship. Attempts to reach the crew have so far been unsuccessful, a Samho official said.

Texas-based refiner Valero Energy Corp (VLO.N) said it was the owner of the crude oil cargo, which was bound for the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Increasingly brazen pirate activity has driven up insurance costs, forced some ships to go around South Africa instead of through the Suez Canal, and secured millions of dollars in ransoms.

A Nairobi-based maritime group said the tanker had been seized by Somali pirates, and a pirate source named Mohamed said the ship was now heading for Haradheere, the port and pirates' base at which many ships are held during ransom negotiations.

( Reuters )

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