More on the Threat of Piracy to the Oil Trade
There are a couple of interesting snippets this morning in the coverage of the seizing of a Saudi oil tanker by Somali pirates I commented on yesterday. First, the Financial Times echoes my observations about the potential impact of this on the oil trade:
While most other seizures have been of vessels heading into or out of the Suez Canal, the latest incident will raise question marks about the safety of the route from the Arabian Gulf to the Cape of Good Hope — a route taken by the largest oil tankers heading from the world’s main oil-producing regions to both Europe and North America.
The development therefore puts at risk a far higher proportion of the world’s energy shipments than the 12 per cent that shipping organisations had already considered in danger. “That route from the Cape to the Gulf was not considered the riskiest route,” said Mr Mukundan.
The New York Times has an interesting observation about the sophistication of the pirates’ operations:
The location of the latest attack, far out to sea, suggested that the pirates may be expanding their range in an effort to avoid the multinational naval patrols now plying the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea.
“I’m stunned by the range of it,” said Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a news conference in Washington. The ship’s distance from the coast was “the longest distance I’ve seen for any of these incidents,” he said.
The vessel was headed for the United States via the Cape of Good Hope when it was seized, Reuters reported.
Maritime experts recently have noticed a new development in the gulf — the pirates’ use of “mother ships,” large oceangoing trawlers carrying fleets of speedboats which are then deployed when a new prize is encountered.
“They launch these boats and they’re like wild dogs,” said Mr. Choong in Kuala Lumpur. “They attack the ship from the port, from starboard, from all points, shooting, scaring the captain, firing RPGs and forcing the ship to stop.”