November 17, 2008 / 1:49 PM / 11 years ago

Norway shipper Odfjell says to avoid Gulf of Aden

OSLO, Nov 17 (Reuters) - Norwegian shipping group Odfjell (ODF.OL) will stop sailing through the Gulf of Aden to avoid pirates and will reroute its vessels around the Cape of Good Hope despite the higher costs, the company said on Monday.

Piracy off Somalia has plagued the shipping lane linking the Middle East Gulf and Asia to Europe and beyond through the Suez Canal. On Monday the U.S. Navy said pirates seized control of a large Saudi-owned oil tanker off east Africa — the first oil tanker to be taken by pirates in the area. [nLH653087]

“We will no longer expose our crew to the risk of being hijacked and held for ransom by pirates in the Gulf of Aden,” Odfjell Chief Executive Terje Storeng said in a statement.

“The re-routing will entail extra sailing days and later cargo deliveries,” he said. “This will incur significant extra cost, but we expect our customers’ support and contribution.”

Odfjell, which specialises in chemical tankers and has a fleet of 92 vessels, is one of a handful of companies which, according to experts, have already decided to reroute around the Cape, while several others are thinking of following suit. [ID:nLE588429]

The moves reflect the escalation of attacks from one every couple of weeks to as much as four in one day. Last week Somali pirates captured three ships including a chemical tanker chartered by another Norwegian shipping group, Stolt-Neilsen (SNI.OL). [ID:nLG247567]

Odfjell said it was frustrated that governments and other authorities were taking a “limited interest” in the problem.

“Several chemical tankers have been hijacked at gunpoint, and although hostages up to now reportedly have been released seemingly unharmed, we do not know if this will be so in the future,” it said.

“The efforts that are being made do not seem to put an effective end to what can best be described as ruthless, high level organised crime,” Storeng added.

The company said it would resume sailing through the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal once sufficient protection is in place or action is taken to prevent pirate attacks in the area.

To see a FACTBOX on the impact of Somali pirates click on [ID:nLD681364]

Reporting by John Acher; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter

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