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Last Updated: Monday, 4 February 2008, 14:39 GMT
Pirates seize Irish crew member

Somali pirates (file pic)
Piracy is a major problem off the Somali coast
An Irish man is among six tugboat crew members who have been seized by pirates off the coast of Somalia.

He was on board the Danish-owned Svitzer Korsakov, which was captured early on Friday morning and is now at anchor in Somali waters.

The vessel also has a British captain and four Russian crew members.

The Republic's Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin said it was offering consular assistance to the Irish citizen's family.

"The department is aware of the incident and is monitoring the situation closely," a spokeswoman said.

The newly built ship was travelling from St Petersburg to Sakhalin Island, between north west Japan and Russia.

The Irish crew member is understood to be the chief engineer. It is not known what part of the island he is from.

Patrick Adamson, of the ship's owners, Svitzer, said: "We have been in touch with both the master of the vessel and the hijackers.

Map of Somalia
The ship is now anchored off Somalia

"The crew's morale is good, they are getting some sleep and are being fed," he said.

A statement from the company added: "Appropriate measures are in place to seek the safe release of the crew, and their families continue to receive support."

The International Maritime Bureau advises merchant ships to stay at least 200 nautical miles from the Somali coast because of the risk of piracy.

In October last year, IMB director Pottengal Mukundan said pirates in Somalia were operating with impunity.



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