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Sun 21 Aug 2011 07:58 AM

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21 Indian sailors caught in Oman hijacking

Somalian pirates seize tanker and crew while anchored in Salalah port

21 Indian sailors caught in Oman hijacking
Somali pirates behind similar vessel hijackings usually operate in Indian Ocean waters,

Somali pirates hijacked a chemical-oil tanker with 21 Indian
sailors on board on Saturday from near an Omani port, although the exact
location was unconfirmed.

India's Directorate General of Shipping said the Fairchem
Bogey, managed by Mumbai-based Anglo-Eastern Ship Management, was hijacked
while anchored in Salalah port. A Salalah-based shipping source said the vessel
was being loaded with methanol when it was seized.

The port's operator, APM Terminals, however, said pirates
boarded the vessel while it was two miles off the coast of Oman, awaiting a
berth, and comandeered it towards Somalia.

Andrew Mwangura, shipping editor of The Somalia Report, who
is based in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa told Reuters the position of the
hijacking showed the ship was inside Oman's territorial waters.

"It was captured six nautical miles south of Salalah so
it is definitely inside Oman," he said, adding that a country's
territorial waters usually stretch out 12 miles into the sea.

"If it is Somali pirates, it means they have a mother
ship they are operating with. The high season for piracy has just
started."

The end of the southwest monsoon winds in August marks the
end of very turbulent high seas In the Gulf of Aden, making it easier for
Somali pirates with small vessels to sail out and attack ships, Mwangura said.

Tom Boyd, director of external communications at APM
Terminals, told Reuters there were no reported injuries or deaths among the
crew, adding that the Omani government was negotiating with the pirates.

APM Terminals has a 30 percent share in Salalah port and
operates it for the government.

"The Omani authorities are in discussion with the
pirates. Government leaders have met this morning at the palace of the Sultan
of Oman. At 8.28 a.m. the vessel sailed in the direction of Somalia," Boyd
said.

Oman lies at the mouth of the Gulf, a strategic, heavily
patrolled waterway which channels a bulk of the world's crude shipments.

Somali pirates behind similar vessel hijackings usually
operate in Indian Ocean waters, but in January, a 20,586-tonne Algerian-flagged
bulk carrier was seized about 150 miles southeast of Salalah.

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