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World News

FACTBOX - Piracy on the high seas

(Reuters) - Pirates have seized a Saudi-owned oil supertanker off east Africa, the U.S. Navy said on Monday.

Piracy has been growing for several years off the Horn of Africa, and near-daily attacks are now forcing many shippers to seek alternative routes.

The hijackers demand big ransoms from ship owners, threaten humanitarian supplies and push insurance costs sky-high.

Here are some details:

* INCIDENTS IN THE LAST WEEK:

-- The Sirius Star, with 25 crew from Croatia, Britain, the Philippines, Poland and Saudi Arabia, was attacked 450 nautical miles southeast of Mombasa, Kenya, the U.S. Navy said on Monday. It is the first tanker to have been seized in the area. The vessel can carry up to two million barrels of crude oil.

-- A Russian navy patrol boat scared off pirates who tried to capture the Saudi Arabian merchant ship Rabih in the Gulf of Aden on Sunday, the Russian navy told Interfax.

-- On Saturday, a Japanese cargo ship was reported seized by pirates off Somalia. It was carrying 23 sailors, including five South Koreans, Yonhap said.

-- A Chinese fishing boat was reported seized off the Kenyan coast late on Thursday. The crew included 15 Chinese, one Taiwanese, one Japanese, three Filipinos and four Vietnamese.

-- The Karagol, a Turkish ship with 14 crew, was hijacked off Yemen. It was transporting chemicals to the port of Bombay.

* SCALE OF PIRACY:

-- Intelligence sources say three suspicious trawlers now in the Gulf of Aden are believed to be pirate mother vessels.

-- The International Maritime Bureau said a total of 199 incidents of piracy or attempted piracy were reported worldwide between January and September, of which 63 were in the Gulf of Aden and off the Somali coast.

-- Recent attacks have brought the anti-terrorist Combined Task Force 150 into action. The multinational unit, part of Washington’s Operation Enduring Freedom, is based in Djibouti and has come to the aid of many ships attacked.

* IMPACT:

-- Major operators of the world’s merchant shipping -- carrying some 90 percent of the world’s traded goods by volume -- are considering by-passing the Gulf of Aden and Suez Canal altogether.

-- Industry experts say the alternative trade route, round South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, would add some three weeks or more to a typical journey, pushing up costs for goods.

* TRAFFIC:

-- Exports from the Gulf and Asia to the West cross the region on the way to Suez Canal. Nearly 20,000 ships pass through the Gulf of Aden each year.

-- Seven percent of world oil consumption passed through the Gulf of Aden in 2007, according to Lloyd’s Marine Intelligence Unit, including around 30 percent of Europe’s consumption.

-- The area is also the main trade route for dry commodities and manufactured goods between Asia, Europe and the Americas.

Sources: Reuters/EIA www.eia.gov/BIMCO, Lloyd's Marine Intelligence Unit, GlobalSecurity/Ministry of Defence/International Maritime Bureau.

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