Norwegian shipping group Odfjell will stop sailing through the Gulf of Aden to avoid pirates and will reroute its vessels around the Cape of Good Hope despite the higher costs, the company said on Monday.Sort of the ultimate vote of "no confidence" in the forces operating to protect shipping in the area...
Piracy off Somalia has plagued the shipping lane linking the Middle East Gulf and Asia to Europe and beyond through the Suez Canal. On Monday the U.S. Navy said pirates seized control of a large Saudi-owned oil tanker off east Africa -- the first oil tanker to be taken by pirates in the area.
"We will no longer expose our crew to the risk of being hijacked and held for ransom by pirates in the Gulf of Aden," Odfjell Chief Executive Terje Storeng said in a statement.
"The re-routing will entail extra sailing days and later cargo deliveries," he said. "This will incur significant extra cost, but we expect our customers' support and contribution."
Odfjell, which specialises in chemical tankers and has a fleet of 92 vessels, is one of a handful of companies which, according to experts, have already decided to reroute around the Cape, while several others are thinking of following suit.
The moves reflect the escalation of attacks from one every couple of weeks to as much as four in one day. Last week Somali pirates captured three ships including a chemical tanker chartered by another Norwegian shipping group, Stolt-Neilsen .
Odfjell said it was frustrated that governments and other authorities were taking a "limited interest" in the problem.
"Several chemical tankers have been hijacked at gunpoint, and although hostages up to now reportedly have been released seemingly unharmed, we do not know if this will be so in the future," it said.
"The efforts that are being made do not seem to put an effective end to what can best be described as ruthless, high level organised crime," Storeng added.
UPDATE: In a somewhat related note, South Korea is making plans to send a war ship to join military forces already at sea in the loose anti-pirate coalition, as set out here.