NAIROBI, January 29 – Somali pirates on Thursday hijacked a German gas tanker with 13 Filipino and Indonesian crew in the Gulf of Aden, a Kenyan maritime official said.,
"There was a heavy exchange of gunfire (but) the crew is believed to be safe," said Andrew Mwangura who runs the Kenya chapter of the Seafarers Assistance Programme.
He added that it was still unclear whether the exchange was between different groups of hijackers or with foreign navies patrolling the pirate-infested waters.
The MV Longchamp, with a crew of 12 Filipinos and one Indonesian, was transporting liquefied petroleum gas "from Europe to the Far East," Mwangura said, without giving exact locations.
The pirates took control of the Bahamas-flagged vessel and headed for the Somali coast, he added.
The seizure brings to 16 the number of ships currently in the hands of pirates.
Pirate attacks in waters east of Somalia – the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean – increased by nearly 200 percent last year, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
It also saw the biggest seizure ever by pirates when they captured a 330-metre long Saudi-owned super tanker with two million barrels of crude oil, which was later released.