Pirates threatened a ship at the north end of the Strait of Hormuz in the nearest-ever attack to the waterway, which handles 20 percent of the globally traded oil, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
Armed private guards aboard the container vessel fired warning shots to deter pirates chasing the ship in three boats at the northern-most area of the Gulf of Oman, according to the bureau’s piracy reporting centre.
The pirate activity, reported on Feb. 25, “is a sign of concern if they are moving so deep into the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz,” Cyrus Mody, a London-based manager at the centre said today by phone.
The ship identified in the report was the nearest to the Strait of Hormuz, according to a list of attacks published by the IMB over the past three years.
The European Union didn’t count the event as an attack because there was no exchange of gunfire, Timo Lange, press officer with the Northwood, U.K.-based EU Naval Force, said today. EU Navfor declined to name the vessel in line with military policy.
Iran has threatened to block shipments through the strait as Western leaders ratcheted up sanctions in an effort to get the country to halt its nuclear program.
About 35 percent of all crude shipped by sea and a third of the world’s liquefied natural gas passes through the strait which connects the Persian Gulf with the Gulf of Oman. About 17 million barrels a day transits the Hormuz according to the U.S. Energy Department, while 70 percent of the U.K’s imports of LNG come through the strait, according to a Jan. 6 report from Deutsche Bank AG.
Gulf of Oman
The IMB reported two attacks in the Gulf of Oman this year. There were 37 attacks in the Gulf of Aden, 160 off Somali waters and one attack reported off Oman’s coastline in 2011, according to its annual report.
The IMB didn’t name the threatened container vessel in line with policy, disclosing only its capacity, of 18,830 deadweight tons.
There are about 3,500 Somali pirates attacking vessels in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, the United Nations said on Feb 16. Attacks rose to a record 237 in 2011, with ransoms worth $160 million paid to release 31 hijacked vessels, according to a One Earth Future Foundation report released this month.
Piracy cost the shipping industry and governments $6.9 billion last year, including $2.7 billion in extra fuel to speed up through the area and $1.27 billion on military operations, according to the foundation.