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.
US Navy Photograph
While safe rooms should not be regarded as the only measures needed to prevent a successful hijacking they nonetheless provide a much greater degree of safety to crew in the event of an attack, comments GAC Protective Solutions
Combined Maritime Forces says that at 0027Z July 6, a distress call was issued by the Marshall Islands-owned, Liberian-flagged tanker approximately 20 nm south west of Aden, Yemen, stating that it believed it was under attack by suspected pirates and required assistance.
Shortly after the suspected attack, the Brilliante Virtuoso reported a fire on board which was beyond its control and that their intention was to abandon ship.
The 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, it 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 its efforts on assisting the crew members.
A rocket-propelled grenade probably caused a fire in the ship’s accommodation block, Central Mare Inc., the vessel’s manager, said in a later statement quoted by Bloomberg.
July 6, 2011