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UPDATED THURSDAY JULY 7
A fire that broke out aboard the Liberian-flagged oil tanker, the MT Brillante Virtuoso, during an aborted pirate attack has been brought under control, the manager of the vessel said Thursday.
A fire broke out on the bridge and crew quarters during the attack early Wednesday, forcing both pirates and crew members to abandon the vessel. All crew members – believed to be 26 Filipinos – escaped safely, as did the seven pirates who had boarded.
The crew took to a lifeboat, and were then picked up by a US warship, the USS Philippine Sea (CG 58), according to the Combined Task Force. The pirates had already fled the scene by the time the warship arrived.
"Tug and salvage crews have brought the fire under control, and are continuing to conduct boundary cooling operations on board the ... vessel off the coast of Yemen," the ship’s manager, Athens-based Central Mare Inc, said in a statement.
"While flames reignited in the accommodation area overnight the situation is now reported to be under control and the vessel is currently at anchor, approximately 16 miles from the nearest shore at position 12-29N 044-46E."
The 149,601 dwt Suez Max oil tanker was attacked at 0006 hrs UTC, only 20 miles the Port of Aden, the company said. The vessel was en-route from Kerch, Ukraine to Qingdao, China, carrying 141,404.941 MT of fuel oil.
The statement said that the fire began when the pirates fired an RPG into the crew’s quarters, causing them to abandon their efforts to seize the vessel. The master then ordered the crew to evacuate.
The master, chief engineer and electrician are on board the tug boat “Voukefalas”, which is presently keeping the tanker safely in position , while the other 23 crew members are being repatriated, the company said.
There have been few pirate attacks in recent weeks due to the monsoon season, but conditions are expected to shortly improve. According to the Korean Herald, a South Korean warship on Sunday foiled the attempted seizure of the South-Korean owned STX Azalea.
Also, the timing of the attack, which came during night, highlights how pirates are adapting their tactics, using new technology to allow greater flexibility in launching attacks, according to a company that provides private security teams for merchant vessels.
“The timing of this attack is another indicator of a growing capability within the pirates to use night-vision equipment," Paul Gibbins, Director of Communications for Protection Vessels International Ltd, told Somalia Report.