A Comoros-flagged oil tanker with eight Sri Lankan crew on board has been hijacked by Somali pirates off the coast of Somalia.
A Somali official confirmed the hijacking on Tuesday making it the first time in five years since the Somali pirates have successfully taken a commercial ship.
“The pirates hijacked the oil tanker and they brought it near Alula,” said Mohamud Ahmed Eynab, the district commissioner for Alula.
Oceans Beyond Piracy aid group’s John Steed said the vessel, Aris 13, sent out a distress call on Monday before turning off its tracking system and altering course for the Somali port town of Alula.
Steed also said the ship reported it was being followed by two skiffs on Monday afternoon before it disappeared.
The International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur said the ship was being monitored by the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Organisation (UKMTO).
UKMTO coordinates the management of all merchant ships and yachts in the Gulf of Aden area.
A spokesman for the organization confirmed the vessel’s last known position as Alula adding that it was taken against its will. The spokesman, however, said it was too early to say that the ship had been taken by pirates since there has so far been no request for a ransom.
Aris 13 is used to refuel ships in port. It was traveling from Djibouti to the Somali capital Mogadishu when it was hijacked.
According to the Equasis shipping data website, the 1,800 deadweight ton vessel is owned by Panama company Armi Shipping. It is, however, managed by Aurora Ship Management in the United Arab Emirates.
The Sri Lankan government have confirmed its nationals were on board the vessel adding that it was registered in Colombo until January 21, 2016, before it switched to the Comoros islands.
Somali pirates in their heyday in 2012 launched 237 attacks off the coast of the war-torn nation holding hundreds of hostages.
They cost the world’s shipping industry billions of dollars leading to combined international efforts over the past few years to patrol the gulf region which seemed to have paid off until now.
The last major attack by Somali pirates was on the MV Smyrni, a crude oil tanker with 26 crew members. The vessel was held in a pirate anchorage off the Somali coast for 10 months before being released after an undisclosed ransom was paid.