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Somali pirates widen reach, India worried

world Updated: Oct 21, 2009 00:30 IST
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The hijacking of a Chinese coal ship in the Indian Ocean shows Somali pirates are extending their reach beyond the Gulf of Aden and the Somali coast, shippers said as traders worried that more coal ships could become targets. The De Xin Hai, carrying about 76,000 tonnes of coal from South Africa to the port of Mundra, in Gujarat, India, was hijacked about 700 nautical miles off the east coast of Somalia on Monday, the European Union’s counter-piracy force said.

The ship could be brought to Haradheere, a pirate stronghold, or Hobyo, both on the central part of Somalia’s Indian Ocean coastline. “This shows that the pirates are expanding their operations,” said an official at the China Shipowners’ Association in Beijing.

Indian coal traders said the incident — the first reported hijacking of a coal vessel by Somali pirates — could mean the pirates may start targetting other coal ships as these dry bulk vessels are smaller and have a relatively small crew.

Greater risk from pirates could disrupt an expected increase in the volume of South African coal heading to India in the coming month.