NEWS

Greek tanker keeps pirates at bay

Sailors on board a Greek-flagged crude oil tanker managed to fight off two attempts by pirates to board the ship off the coast of Somalia by using water jets and with the help of a European Union force that has recently begun operations in the area. The Merchant Marine Ministry said that the Kriti Episkopi, with a crew of 29, seven of whom are Greek, was attacked in the Gulf of Aden where more than 40 vessels, including three Greek-owned ships, were hijacked last year. The pirates were in three speedboats and were armed with guns and rocket-propelled grenades. The crew sent out a distress signal and then turned high-powered water jets on the pirates as they attempted to board the tanker. An aircraft and a helicopter from the EU’s Atalanta naval mission in the Gulf of Aden arrived soon afterward. A frigate approached some minutes later as the pirates withdrew from the scene. «These actions prevented two attempts by the pirates to board the ship,» the ministry said in a statement. The vessel is owned by the shipping operator Avin International, which belongs to the wealthy Vardinoyiannis family. The company said that the Kriti Episkopi would be continuing its journey from Greece to Iran following the failed attack, which came a day after Somali pirates seized an Egyptian cargo ship with 28 crew members in the Gulf of Aden. A Malaysian military helicopter on Thursday saved an Indian tanker from being hijacked and a French warship prevented an attack on a Panamanian cargo ship. There are no fewer than a dozen warships patrolling between the shores of Yemen and Somalia in a bid to protect the commercial shipping that passes through the area. There were 111 attacks in the vast waterway last year and 42 ships were hijacked, of which 14 are still in pirate hands. The others were released after the payment of massive ransoms.