Oil Tanker Ablaze Off Yemeni Coast After Pirate Attack


"The ship was attacked as it approached port to collect unarmed guards."‎

Bloomberg, Michelle Wiese Bockmann and Alaric Nightingale

A tanker carrying about 1 million barrels of fuel oil is on fire off the Yemeni coast after pirates used a rocket-propelled grenade to attack the ship in a maritime corridor handling about one-fifth of world trade.

The 274-meter Brillante Virtuoso was going to China from Ukraine. A rocket-propelled grenade probably caused a fire in the ship's accommodation block.

"Pirates go for targets of opportunity, and if they see a ship and itís clear they have a chance, they will go for it regardless of size," said Jakob Larsen, a maritime security officer at the Bagsvaerd, a Denmark-based Baltic and International Maritime Council, which represents the owners of about two- thirds of the global fleet.

The ship is being towed by two tugs and there is no risk of a spill, a source said today. Twenty-six crew members were rescued from a life-raft by the USS Philippine Sea, a guided-missile cruiser.

The Brillante Virtuoso was attacked overnight as it approached the port of Aden to collect unarmed guards. The crew issued a distress call saying they were under attack by pirates. When the Philippine Sea arrived at the Brillante Virtuoso it found no pirates and rescued the crew.

An estimated 20% of world trade passes through the Gulf of Aden between Yemen and Somalia. Ships use it to get to the Suez Canal, which connects the Mediterranean Sea and Red Sea. It is the fastest crossing from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean, according to the Suez Canal Authority.

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