Somali pirates yesterday captured a Thai bulk carrier with its 27 crew members in the Arabian Sea, a maritime official said.
The Thor Nexus was seized in the early hours while on its way to Bangladesh from the United Arab Emirates. All its crew members are Thai, said Andrew Mwangura of the East African Seafarers Assistance Programme.
Mwangura said the vessel was taken some 350 nautical miles east of Salala port, but the nature of its cargo was still unknown.
According to maritime watchdog Ecoterra International, Somali pirates are currently holding at least 40 foreign vessels and nearly 700 seamen, though the European naval force in the area put it at 25 vessels and 601 hostages.
A statement from the Brussels-based NAVFOR said the 20,377-tonne general cargo ship, which is Thai-flagged and owned, was heading to Bangladesh from Jebel Ali in the United Arab Emirates at the time of the attack, some 450 nautical miles north-east of the island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean.
Despite the presence of foreign warships patrolling the waters off the war-wracked Horn of Africa state, the pirates have continued to seize ships and rake in huge ransoms.
Observers have argued that ending the piracy problem lies in resolving Somalia's protracted civil war which erupted in 1991 with the ouster of president Mohamed Siad Barre.