* First recorded attack in Omani waters
* MV Charelle heading towards Somalia
(Adds detail, quotes, background)
By Alison Bevege
ON BOARD NRP CORTE-REAL, June 12, (Reuters) - Suspected Somali pirates have seized a German-owned cargo ship off the coast of the Gulf Arab state of Oman, the first recorded attack in its territorial waters, NATO alliance staff said on Friday.
The MV Charelle was attacked 60 nautical miles south of Sur on the Omani coast, NATO Lieutenant Commander Alexandre Fernandes said aboard NATO’s Portuguese warship Corte-Real, which is on anti-piracy patrol off Somalia.
“The Charelle is now heading southwest towards Somalia,” Fernandes said. “This is the first case of armed robbery outside the normal operations area of the pirates.”
“They are probably looking for other areas of operations where there are less patrols by warships.”
No distress call was heard from the vessel, but the ship was reported hijacked on Friday afternoon, he said. It is not known how many crew are on board or what their nationalities are.
Fernandes said the Antigua and Barbuda-flagged vessel would soon cross into international waters where many warships are patrolling. But he said they were unlikely to do anything to upset the pirates or endanger their prisoners.
Lloyds reports the vessel is owned by shipping firm Tarmstedt International.
The International Maritime Bureau says more ships have been attacked off Somalia so far in 2009 than in the whole of 2008. There have been 132 reported attacks compared with 111 in 2008.
But fewer of those attacks have been successful. There have been 29 successful hijackings compared with 42 last year.
Editing by David Clarke