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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Somali Pirates: Oil Tanker On Fire and Adrift Due to Pirate Attack

U.S. Navy cruiser rescues crew of burning oil tanker as set out here:
US Navy personnel in small boat come to aid of merchant sailors in orange life raft while ship burns in background. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Intelligence Specialist Raynald Lenieux/ Released

At 0027Z July 6, a distress call was issued by the Marshall Islands-owned, Liberian-flagged, Motor Vessel Brilliante Virtuoso approximately 20nm south west of Aden, Yemen, stating that they believed they were under attack by suspected pirates and required assistance.

The Brilliante Virtuoso, a 144,000 tonne, fully laden, Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) was travelling eastbound from Suez through the Gulf of Aden.

Shortly after the suspected attack, the Brilliant Virtuoso reported a fire on board which was beyond their control and that their intention was to abandon ship.

U.S. Navy photo by Chief Intelligence Specialist Raynald Lenieux/ Released
The US guided missile cruiser, USS Philippine Sea (CG 58), operating under Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), responded to the distress call. When the Philippine Sea arrived on the scene, they observed smoke coming from the superstructure of the ship and that the crew had abandoned ship in a life-raft. The Philippine Sea found no evidence of pirates and concentrated their efforts on assisting the crew members.

USS Philippine Sea
The owner of Brilliante Virtuoso confirmed that the crew of 26 were all Filipino and all have been recovered safely by the Philippine Sea. CMF will continue to assist as appropriate.
More, early, reports:

Oil Tanker on Fire, Adrift After Pirate Attack:
The oil tanker Brillante Virtuoso is on fire after being attacked by Somali pirates Wednesday morning.

Sources in the Kenyan Navy say a fire broke out in the crew quarters and on the bridge during the attack forcing both the crew and the pirates to abandon the vessel
NATO reported location of burning tanker
NATO report here:
JULY 6, 2011
Latitude: 12 29N Longitude: 04444E
Alert Number 201/2011
At 0023Z/06 July / A merchant vessel was attacked but not taken at the position indicated, currently the vessel is ablaze and dead in the water.
UPDATE 7 July: Reportedly, the fire is out and the tanker is being towed:
The 144,000 dwt VLCC Brilliante Virtuoso is under tow by two tugs after pirates set fire to the accomodations structure with an RPG.

GAC Protective Solutions reports that the Brillante Virtuoso, which is owned by Suez Fortune Investment Ltd., was carrying a million barrels of oil when it was boarded earlier on July 6, around 20 miles from the coast of Aden. The vessel was traveling from Ukraine to China and was due to call in to Aden harbor to collect armed guards before transiting through the rest of the Gulf of Aden.

GAC Protective Solutions says it is likely that the tanker's crew managed to gather in a citadel or safe room when the attack took place, while pirates frustrated at not being able to reach them set fire to the accommodations block, possibly in an attempt to intimidate other shipping operators that the use of safe rooms can still incur danger.