Piracy looms as a conern for Volvo Ocean Race participants

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Kochi, Nov 22 (UNI) The seizure of a Saudi Arabian oil super tanker off the coast of Somalia has put piracy on the list of concerns as the Volvo Ocean Race heads towards India but measures have been put in place to tackle the threat, the organisers of the premier international yachting event said today.

The eight Volvo Open 70s are heading south east of the Arabian Sea area, where the Saudi-owned vessel was taken. However an exclusion zone will keep them in excess of 400 miles from the Somalian coastal waters, the organisers said in a press release here.

In fact, their current routing will take them east of the Maldives, some 1,500 miles away from the scene of the incident.

Before the start of the second leg from Cape Town to Kochi, a security briefing was held for the teams.

Besides the waters off the coast of Somalia, the regions of most concern are the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca, the stretch of water between West Malaysia and the Indonesian island of Sumatra that will feature in leg three.

''As a general rule of thumb, the risk of piracy was reckoned to be one percent but the teams need to have a level of awareness,'' Race Director Jack Lloyd said.

According to Debbie Hadwen, the Chief Duty Officer, whose team safeguards the boats 24-7 from the race headquarters in Whiteley, there are practices and procedures in place to deal with any such incidents.

''We are sending our three-hourly reports to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Organisation who are responsible for security and piracy in the region,'' she said. ''In return, they regularly report to us on what warships are in the waters the fleet are travelling to, should any assistance be needed.

''If one of the boats was to be approached we also have the support of Control Risks, our security advisers, standing by to deal with any situation.'' However, piracy remains a concern for the teams. In a live onboard video conference with CNN, Telefonica Black navigator Roger Nilson cited the Strait of Malacca near Sri Lanka, as an area of concern.

''This is the first time we are getting into waters which have a risk of piracy so we are wary. Nobody has ever raced in this area before. We have to go through the Malacca Straits which is a high-risk piracy area,'' Nilson said UNI ARC VV AV RN1408

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