6 Apr 2010

Korean warship catches up with hijacked oil tanker

5:33 pm on 6 April 2010

A South Korean warship has caught up with a super-tanker that was hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean.

The South Korean foreign ministry said the destroyer had arrived in waters near the tanker and would remain at a safe distance, the BBC reports.

The Samho Dream, which was on its way from Iraq to the United States, has 24 crew and is laden with crude oil. Its owners said the pirates had not yet made any demands.

When the crew of the South Korean-operated super tanker first raised the alarm the navy destroyer, already on duty in the Gulf of Aden, was about 1,500km south-east of the area where the hijacking took place.

It was ordered to close the gap at speed and has now reached the hijacked ship which is believed to be heading for the Somali coast.

The foreign ministry said that the frigate would continue to track the oil tanker from a safe distance.

The BBC reports there appears to be no plans to intercept it. The estimated 1.5 million barrels of oil on board is a very valuable, but also potentially volatile cargo.

Any attempt to apprehend it by force could put the crew of five South Koreans and 19 Filipinos in greater danger, and could cause severe environmental damage.

The value of the Samho Dream's cargo is estimated at about $US170 million.