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Thu 17 Nov 2011 05:34 PM

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Gas shippers face new threat from marine pirates

Qatari tanker carrying fuel was robbed by knife-carrying pirates last year

Gas shippers face new threat from marine pirates
Pirate attacks cost the global economy up to $12bn a year

Gas
shippers must tackle growing threats to trade as naval containment of piracy
falters and surging global demand spurs traffic through high-risk waterways,
the general manager of Yemen's liquefaction plant said on Wednesday.

"There
have been incidents when pirates have boarded LNG carriers steaming at 20 knots
with high freeboard," Yemen LNG's Francois Rafin told delegates at a
conference in Rome without elaborating.

"The
industry can no longer rely on the speed and height of LNG tankers," he
added.

LNG
tankers are faster and sit higher in the water, known as freeboard, than other
tankers, discouraging hijack attempts because of the added difficulties in
gaining access.

Last
year in the South China Sea six pirates armed with knives robbed the crew of a
Qatari tanker carrying 216,000 cubic meters of fuel, without causing delays to
delivery, according to the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Report 2011.

Rafin
said some shippers had even imposed no-go areas in order to avoid trouble,
adding that private armed guards are being used when naval escorts are not
available.

Shipowners
have confirmed using private armed guards in the last year as they struggle to
protect trade as piracy escalates, they told Reuters.

Tanker
traffic through hot-spots like the Gulf of Aden reached record levels last
year, in part owing to more supply from Qatar and Yemen as trade with Europe
and South America rose

Over 885
LNG carriers sailed through the Suez Canal last year, up from 525 in 2009 and
429 in 2008, figures from the Suez Canal Authority show, while other tanker
trade never fully recovered from the 2008/2009 slump, increasing the likelihood
that LNG ships will start to draw unwanted attention from pirates.

Rafin
called on the industry to properly address growing security risks.

Asked
about recent sabotage on Yemen's LNG plant, Rafin said preventative measures
are being taken to deter repeat attacks.

"These
issues are being addressed and we are reinforcing our protection and the
government of Yemen is reinforcing our protection," he said.

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