Nairobi, Nov 22: Kenya's Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula has clamed that Somali pirates have collected over 150 million dollars in ransoms over the past year, and appealed to ship owners not to pay when their vessels are hijacked.
According to Fox News, Somali pirates have seized eight vessels including a huge Saudi supertanker loaded with 100 million dollars worth of crude oil in the past fortnight. "We are advised that in the last 12 months, ransom to the excess of 150 million dollars has been paid to these criminals and that is why they are becoming more and more audacious in their activities," Wetangula said.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal told a conference in Oslo, Norway, that his government would not negotiate with pirates, and added that what ship's owners did in the event of a hijack, was up to them.
Meanwhile, the The world's largest oil tanker company, Frontline Ltd., has warned that it may divert cargo shipments, which would boost costs up to 40 percent.
Frontline Ltd., which ferries five to 10 tankers of crude a month through the treacherous Gulf of Aden, said it was negotiating a change of shipping routes with some of its customers, including oil giants Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP and Chevron.
Martin Jensen, Frontline's acting chief executive, said that sending tankers around South Africa instead would extend the trip by 40 percent.
Bermuda-based Frontline plans to make a decision whether to change shipping routes within a week, Jensen said.
A.P Moller-Maersk, the world's largest container-shipping company, on Thursday ordered some of its slower vessels to avoid the Gulf of Aden and head the long way around Africa.
The Copenhagen-based company said it was telling ships "without adequate speed," mainly tankers, to sail the long route around Africa unless they can join convoys with naval escorts in the gulf, group executive Soeren Skou said.
Norwegian shipping group Odfjell SE on Wednesday ordered its more than 90 tankers to avoid the Gulf of Aden because of the risk of attack by pirates.
Somali pirates have the support of their communities and rogue members of the government. Often dressed in military fatigues, pirates travel in open skiffs with outboard engines, working with larger ships that tow them far out to sea. They use satellite navigational and communications equipment and an intimate knowledge of local waters, clambering aboard commercial vessels with ladders and grappling hooks.
They are typically armed with automatic weapons, anti-tank rocket launchers and grenades - weaponry that is readily available throughout Somalia.
On Thursday, the African Union urged the United Nations to quickly send peacekeepers to Somalia but that appeared unlikely anytime soon. In New York, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to authorize its sanctions committee to recommend people and entities that would be subject to an asset freeze and travel ban for engaging in or supporting acts that threaten peace in Somalia, for violating a UN arms embargo, and for obstructing delivery of humanitarian aid.