Somali pirates have hijacked a Malaysian-flagged boxship with a crew of 23 west of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, a regional maritime watchdog said on Tuesday.
The MV Albedo container vessel was en route from the United Arab Emirates to Kenya when it was hijacked on Friday despite sailing around the Seychelles, no less than 900 nautical miles east of the Somali coast.
"MV ALBEDO has a crew of 23 from Pakistan, Iran, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh" and is being commandeered towards central Somalia, said Ecoterra International, an environmental group monitoring maritime activity in the region.
Naval powers have deployed dozens of warships to patrol the region's waters but they have failed to stem piracy, one of the few thriving businesses for coastal communities in a country devastated by war and poverty.
Over the past two years, marauding sea-jackers on skiffs equipped with RPGs, ladders and grapnels have moved away from the heavily-patrolled Gulf of Aden and expanded their area of operations east and south in the Indian Ocean.
According to Ecoterra International, the number of captured vessels and seamen has never been higher, with pirates currently holding at least 34 foreign vessels and more than 600 crew.