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Somali Pirates Hijack Saudi Oil Tanker

The Saudi-owned tanker Sirius Star was taken by Somali pirates on Saturday in their boldest move yet and sits in anchorage, awaiting ransom.

The vessel left the Persian Gulf on Nov. 10 and was bound for the Caribbean Sea.

It is the first hijacking of a Very Large Crude Carrier, the largest seaborne vessels used to transport oil, with a capacity of some 2 million barrels. It is three times the size of a U.S. aircraft carrier.

The capacity of the Sirius Star represents about 25 percent of Saudi Arabia's daily oil output.

However, in terms of pricing, the Somali pirates are about four months too late to make a dent in the global oil market: Oil is trading today at about $56 per barrel and dropping. Had the pirates struck in July, when oil was trading for $147 per barrel and gas was $4 per gallon, well, they might have scored a higher ransom.

The ship was taken about 450 miles southeast of Mombasa, Kenya, according to U.S. Navy officials, early Saturday morning, local time.

Somali piracy has been a problem since the nation's civil wars in the 1990s.

The International Chamber of Commerce reports an "unprecedented rise in pirate activity."

These are not your lovable, parrot-on-the-shoulder, Johnny Depp pirates: Somali pirates are killers, and rocket-propelled grenades are their weapons of choice.

So far this year, the Chamber reports 118 vessels boarded, 31 of which were successfully hijacked. So far, nine crew members have been killed and another seven are missing and presumed dead.

-- Frank Ahrens

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By Frank Ahrens  |  November 17, 2008; 2:28 PM ET
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: pirates  
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