- The Washington Times - Monday, April 21, 2008

TOKYO — A suspected pirate ship fired on a Japanese oil tanker today off the eastern coast of Yemen, leaving a hole from which hundreds of gallons of fuel leaked, officials said. No one was injured.

The 150,000-ton tanker Takayama was attacked about 270 miles off the coast of Aden in southwestern Yemen while it was heading for Saudi Arabia, its Japanese operator, Nippon Yusen K.K., said in a statement.

None of its 23 crew members — seven Japanese and 16 Filipinos — were injured, the company said. The vessel left the South Korean port of Ulsan on April 4.

Nippon Yusen spokeswoman Yuko Tsutsui said the attack left a 1-inch hole in the tanker’s stern, which was temporarily patched after hundreds of gallons of fuel leaked.

She said the tanker was heading to Aden for repairs, and its itinerary could change depending on the extent of the damage.

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  • Transportation Ministry official Yoichi Oda said the attackers were believed to be pirates whose motive was not immediately known. The waters in the Gulf of Aden between Yemen and Somalia are considered prone to pirate attacks.

    In late October, a Panamanian-registered chemical tanker operated by a Japanese shipping company was seized by pirates in nearby waters off Somalia’s coast. All but one of its 23 crew members were freed unharmed in mid-December.

    More than 260 vessels, including 10 Japanese ships, were attacked by pirates last year worldwide, Oda said, quoting International Maritime Bureau figures. Nearly 40 percent of the pirate attacks occurred off the coasts of Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen, where the number of incidents surged from the previous year.

    Kyodo News agency said the tanker was hit by a rocket fired from a small boat.

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