Somali pirates hijack commercial ship

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In this photo taken Monday, Oct. 27, 2014, the Aris 13 oil tanker is seen from a helicopter in the harbor of Gladstone, Australia. Pirates have hijacked the Aris 13 oil tanker off the coast of Somalia, officials and piracy experts said Tuesday, March 14, 2017, the first such seizure of a large commercial vessel on the crucial global trade route since 2012. (Kevin Finnigan/Tropic Maritime Images via AP)

Pirates have hijacked an oil tanker with eight Sri Lankan crew on board, the first time a commercial ship has been seized in the region since 2012.

Security forces have been sent to free the Aris 13, a Somali police official said late on Tuesday.

"We are determined to rescue the ship and its crew. Our forces have set off to Alula. It is our duty to rescue ships hijacked by pirates and we shall rescue it," Abdirahman Mohamud Hassan, director general of Puntland's marine police forces, told Reuters by phone.

Puntland is a semi-autonomous northern region of Somalia. Alula is a port town there where pirates have taken the tanker.

Experts said the ship was an easy target and ship owners were becoming lax after a long period of calm.

The Aris 13 sent a distress call on Monday, turned off its tracking system and altered course for the Somali port town of Alula.

Aircraft from regional naval force EU Navfor were flying overhead to track the ship,.

The pirates brought the ship to the port town of Alula, district commissioner Mohamud Ahmed Eynab said.

The Sri Lankan government said eight Sri Lankan crew were onboard and the ship flew a flag from the Comoros islands.

The 1,800 deadweight tonne Aris 13 is owned by Panama company Armi Shipping and managed by Aurora Ship Management in the United Arab Emirates, according to the Equasis shipping data website, managed by the French transport ministry.

© RAW 2017

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