July 6, 2011 / 12:20 PM / in 9 years

UPDATE 1-Pirates attack oil tanker off Yemen, crew safe

(Updates throughout)

DUBAI/LONDON, July 6 (Reuters) - Pirates fired a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) into a fuel oil tanker near the Yemeni port of Aden on Wednesday morning, but the vessel and its cargo were recovered, the ship manager said.

The 26 crew members on board the Brillante Virtuoso, which was carrying over 141,000 tonnes of fuel oil from Ukraine to Qingdao in China, abandoned ship after pirates fired into their bedroom block in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

“It is understood that the pirates fired RPG into the accommodation area, which started a fire,” ship manager Central Mare Inc. said in a statement.

“As a result the pirates abandoned their efforts to take control of the ship and left the scene, and the master ordered evacuation of all crew members.”

A U.S. navy vessel and two tugs from the port of Aden have arrived at the scene, the company said, adding that all the members of the crew were not injured and no pollution was caused. A company source said the vessel was being escorted to the nearby port of Aden.

Somali pirate gangs can stay out at sea for long periods using captured merchant vessels as mother ships and have been using Yemen’s remote island of Socotra as a refuelling hub.

The Somali piracy crisis is costing world trade billions of dollars a year.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Dubai and Jonathan Saul in London, writing by Daniel Fineren, editing by Jane Baird)

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