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May 6, 2010

Pirates hijack Russian tanker

Russia's Prosecutor General's Office (SKP) has opened a formal criminal case following the hijacking of the 105,474 dwt tanker Moscow University on the morning of May 5, 350 nm east of Socatra. The Liberian flag vessel is owned by Novoship which said the ship was attacked at about 4.00 a.m. UTC by two speedboats with a group of armed individuals while proceeding eastbound from the Gulf of Aden. The ship was under way from the Red Sea to China to discharge 86.000 tones of crude oil.

The pirates opened fire and tried to board the vessel.

Novoship says the crew of Moscow University acted in compliance with the office instructions: all the relevant parties were informed including the Russian-flag warship Marshal Shaposhnikov which is currently proceeding to the vessel's position.

At 4:50 UTC the communication with the vessel was disrupted. The company suspects the pirates managed to board the tanker. According to the latest information received from the Master none of the 23 seafarers on board have been hurt, the vessel and the cargo sustained no damage.

In a later statement, Novoship said that at 20:00 MT it still had no connection to the tanker, but was constantly monitoring the vessel's position which was adrift and staying at the point where the attack took place.

Subsequently, at 0.30 MT, Thursday morning, Novoship reported that the tanker was still in the same position, with the Marshal Shaposhnikov headed toward it.

According to the RT TV Channel, Marshal Shaposhnikov is a large submarine hunter and is due to arrive in the area by midnight.

RT says that a pirate calling himself Abdi has told Reuters : "Any attempt to rescue the ship will certainly endanger the crew. The ship will be docked at Garacad."

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