After Oil Tanker Hijacking, Saudi Arabia to Join Anti-Piracy Efforts

A supertanker loaded with 2 million barrels of oil is hijacked by Somali pirates far off the coast of Kenya. An official in Somalia is vowing to rescue the ship, using force if necessary. Video by AP
By Faiza Saleh Ambah
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, November 19, 2008

JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 18 -- Saudi Arabia's foreign minister on Tuesday condemned the hijacking of a Saudi supertanker carrying $100 million in crude oil, calling piracy "a disease that has to be eradicated."

The 1,080-foot Sirius Star was seized by Somali pirates Saturday off East Africa. Its owner, Vela International, said the tanker is thought to be anchored off the coast of Somalia.

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said his country would join international efforts to battle piracy, which has surged to levels unseen in modern times.

"This outrageous act by the pirates, I think, will only reinforce the resolve of the countries of the Red Sea and internationally to fight piracy," Saud said during a visit to Athens, the Associated Press reported.

Vela International, a subsidiary of the Saudi oil giant Saudi Aramco, said in a statement that the company was "awaiting further contact from the pirates in control of the vessel."

The crew is composed of two Britons, two Poles, one Croatian, one Saudi and 19 Filipinos.

The tanker, which had been heading toward the United States via the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa, held as much as 2 million barrels of oil, more than a quarter of Saudi Arabia's daily exports. News of the hijacking helped briefly push global oil prices to more than $58 a barrel Monday, though they later lost some gains.

More than 80 pirate attacks have been registered this year. [On Wednesday, an official with the International Maritime Bureau said a Thai fishing boat with 16 crew members was captured Tuesday, the same day that pirates hijacked an Iranian bulk cargo carrier with 25 crew members, according to the AP.]

Last month, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved resolutions calling on nations to send naval ships and military aircraft to Somalia's coastline and allowing foreign powers to enter Somali waters to fight piracy.

"This is an initiative in which we are going to join, and so are many other countries of the Red Sea," Saud said without elaborating.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company