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Greek oil supertanker Irene hijacked off Oman

Author : J GALE

09 February 2011

A supertanker carrying about $200m (£125m; 146m euros) worth of crude oil has been hijacked off the coast of Oman, the vessel's Greek operator says.

Athens-based shipping company Enesel said they had lost communication with the Irene SL. The vessel was on its way from the Gulf to the Gulf of Mexico when it was attacked. Although the incident happened hundreds of miles from Somalia, pirate gangs are known to operate there. "This morning the vessel was attacked by armed men," said Enesel in a statement quoted by Reuters. "For the moment there is no communication with the vessel."

Greece's Merchant Marine Ministry told the Associated Press that the ship was carrying 266,000 tons of crude oil. It has a 25-member crew including seven Greeks, 17 Filipinos and one Georgian, according to the ministry.

The EU's naval mission in the region EUNAVFOR said in a statement on its website the Irene was sailing 400 miles (650km) south-east of Muscat. The incident comes a day after pirates took control of an Italian oil tanker in the Indian Ocean, some 800 miles from Somalia's coast.

Before the latest incident, EUNAVFOR said pirates were currently holding 29 vessels along with an estimated 681 hostages. Somali pirates have made millions of dollars in recent years by capturing cargo vessels in the shipping lanes around the Horn of Africa and holding the ships and crew for ransom. Somalia has had no functioning central government since 1991, allowing piracy to flourish off its coast.

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