LISBON Jan 24 Angolan state oil firm Sonangol
on Friday confirmed reports that a tanker it had chartered had
disappeared off the coast of the West African country.
The owners of the Liberian-flagged MT Kerala, Greece-based
Dynacom, said on Wednesday it suspected that the tanker had been
hijacked by pirates. If confirmed, the attack
would be the most southerly to date by pirates off West Africa.
Sonangol said it lost contact with the tanker, with crew of
27, on Jan. 19.
"The relevant authorities and the conventional technical
mechanisms have already been activated to locate the ship and
identify the causes of the occurrence," it said.
Pirate attacks jumped by a third last year off the coast of
West Africa but were mostly confined to the Gulf of Guinea, near
Africa's biggest oil producer Nigeria, where most of the
hijacking gangs are believed to originate.
A hijacking off Angola would be hundreds of miles further
down the coast. Previously the most southerly reported attack
was on a tanker off Gabon last year.
International navies are not actively engaged in
counter-piracy missions in the region, unlike in the waters off
Somalia, the piracy hotspot on the other side of the continent.
Angola is Africa's second biggest crude oil exporter after
Nigeria, where pirate attacks have pushed up insurance costs for
shipping firms and oil companies.
(Reporting by Shrikesh Laxmidas; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)