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MV Sirius Star

The hijacked Sirius Star as photographed by the U.S. Navy.
Name: Sirius Star
Owner: Vela International Marine
Operator: Vela International Marine
Port of registry:  Liberia, Monrovia
Builder: Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering
Yard number: 5302
Laid down: 29 October 2007
Launched: 28 March 2008
Identification: Call sign: A8NA7
DNV ID: 29210
IMO number: 9384198
MMSI number: 636013447
Status: In service
Notes: [1][2]
General characteristics
Type: Oil tanker
Tonnage: 162,252 GT
111,896 NT
318,000 DWT
Length: 332 m (1,089 ft)
Beam: 60 m (200 ft)
Draught: 22.5 m (74 ft)
Crew: 25
Notes: [1]

MV Sirius Star is an oil tanker formerly owned and operated by Vela International Marine.[3] With a length overall of 330 m (1,080 ft) and a capacity of 2.2 million barrels (350,000 m3) of crude oil, the ship is classified as a very large crude carrier or VLCC.[3] Vela is based in the United Arab Emirates and is a subsidiary of the Saudi Arabian state oil company Saudi Aramco. Sirius Star is one of Vela's 24 tankers, of which 19 are VLCCs. Since her launch, the ship has been registered in Monrovia under the Liberian flag of convenience.[1]

Sirius Star was built by the South Korean company Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering. Her construction began in October 2007 and she was launched by Huda M. Ghoson in late March 2008.[1][2]

The ship received international attention when it was hijacked by Somali pirates (allegedly under the orders of piracy kingpin Mohamed Abdi Hassan) on 15 November 2008, becoming the largest ship ever captured by pirates.[4][5][6] The ship was en route from Saudi Arabia to the United States by way of the Cape of Good Hope. At the time of the attack, it was about 450 nautical miles (830 km) southeast of the coast of Kenya, carrying 25 crewmen and its tanks fully loaded with oil. The ship was estimated to be worth approximately US$150 million, with its cargo worth at least US$100 million.

Sirius Star was released on 9 January 2009 after payment of a US $3 million ransom. Three other VLCCs that have been ransomed by pirates are Samho Dream, Maran Centaurus and Irene SL.


  • Design and construction 1
  • Career 2
  • Incidents and accidents 3
    • Hijacking 3.1
    • Ransom demand and deadline 3.2
    • Ransom and release 3.3
    • Effects of the hijacking 3.4
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Design and construction

Sirius Star is a double-hulled oil tanker with a length overall of 332 metres (1,089 ft), a beam of 60 metres (200 ft), a hull depth of 31 metres (102 ft), and a draft of 22.5 metres (74 ft).[1] She can carry 2.2 million barrels (350,000 m3) of crude oil.[1][7] It has a gross tonnage of 162,252 and a total cargo capacity of 318,000 tonnes deadweight (DWT).[1] Vessels of this size are classified as very large crude carriers or VLCCs.

The ship was built by Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) in Okpo, Geoje, South Korea. Her keel was laid on 29 October 2007.[1] Designated as hull number 5302, the ship was the 100th VLCC built by DSME.[7]

Sirius Star was launched by Huda M. Ghoson on 28 March 2008.[2] The launch marked the first time a Saudi woman performed such a ceremony for Vela.[8]


Sirius Star is one of 24 tankers owned and operated by Vela, of which 19 are VLCCs. Vela, based in the United Arab Emirates is a subsidiary of the Saudi Arabian state oil company Saudi Aramco. Since her launch, the ship has been registered under the Liberian flag and homeported in Monrovia.[1]

Incidents and accidents


Position of hijacking is located in Africa
Position of hijacking
Position of hijacking
According to the U.S. Navy, Sirius Star was attacked approximately 450 nautical miles (830 km) southeast of the Kenyan coast.

On 17 November 2008, the U.S. Navy announced Sirius Star was hijacked by Somali pirates. Lt. Nate Christensen, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, said the pirates hijacked the very large crude carrier at about 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, 15 November, while she was southbound, about 450 nautical miles (830 km; 520 mi) southeast of the coast of Kenya at — the farthest out to sea Somali pirates have struck.[3][9] The attack also made Sirius Star the largest vessel ever to be hijacked.[5] It is estimated that for the pirates to reach Sirius Star, they must have voyaged south for three to four days.[10]

At the time of the attack, the ship was carrying a full load of 2 million barrels (320,000 m3) of crude oil — more than one-quarter of Saudi Arabia's daily oil production output, and worth at least US$100 million[11] — and was bound for the United States via the Cape of Good Hope.[12] According to officials from Puntland, the pirates anchored Sirius Star at the Somali port of Harardhere, contrary to early reports from the United States Navy that she was anchored near Eyl.[13][14]

As a result of the full load of cargo, the height from the main deck to the waterline was relatively low; if the reported 22 m (72 ft) draft was correct, her freeboard was about 9 metres (30 ft). Ships in this low-freeboard condition are easier to climb aboard and thus easier targets for pirates.[5]

The 25 member crew, consisting of 19 Filipinos, 2 Britons, 2 Poles, 2 Croat and 1 Saudi Arabian, were reported to be safe.[10][15] On 18 November 2008, Polish media confirmed that the two Polish officers on board were the Captain Marek Niski and technical officer Leszek Adler.[16][17] On 19 November 2008, Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office named two of the British officers aboard the vessel: Chief Engineer Peter French of County Durham and second officer James Grady of Strathclyde.[18]

On 18 November 2008 the pirates opened negotiations with Vela.[18] In a press release dated that day, Vela stated that all crewmembers were safe.[15] In the same press release, the company said it was working towards a "safe and speedy return" of all crewmembers, leaving open the possibility of ransom payment.[15]

Ransom demand and deadline

Ransom being dropped by parachute on 9 January 2009
Harardhere is located in Somalia
Sirius Star was anchored near the Somali port town of Harardhere.

On 19 November, the alleged pirate, Farah Abd Jameh, provided information regarding the ransom by audio tape broadcast over Al-Jazeera television.[18] The tape specified that an unspecified cash ransom was to be delivered to Sirius Star, where it would be counted using machines that were able to detect counterfeit bills.[18]

On 20 November, the pirates demanded a US$25 million ransom having set a 10-day deadline. Mohamed Said stated: "We do not want long-term discussions to resolve the matter. The Saudis have 10 days to comply, otherwise we will take action that could be disastrous."[19][20] The then Foreign Secretary David Miliband ruled out the UK paying any form of ransom, saying "There is a strong view of the British Government, and actually the international community, that payments for hostage-taking are only an encouragement to further hostage-taking."[21] By 24 November, the pirates had reduced their ransom demand to US$15 million.[22]

A small faction of Somali Islamic rebels planned to attack Sirius Star to liberate her from her hijackers. The faction's planned attack on the hijackers is seen in retaliation for them seizing a "Muslim" vessel.[23] Locals in Harardhere have said the threats of attack from Islamic militants have forced the pirates to leave the port and remain approximately 54 nmi (100 km; 62 mi) offshore. A spokesman for the Islamic rebel group, Abdirahim Isse Adow, stated "We are against this act and we shall hunt the ship wherever she sails, and free it."[22]

Ransom and release

Sirius Star was freed On 9 January 2009 after a US$3 million ransom payment.[24] Five of the "dozens" of pirates drowned after their small boat capsized in a storm after leaving Sirius Star with their share of the ransom.[25] The body of one of the pirates that drowned later washed ashore with US$153,000 in cash in a plastic bag.[26]

After her release, Sirius Star sailed to the port of Fujairah in the UAE, and the crew was replaced.[27]

Effects of the hijacking

After hijack the vessel was anchored at Harardhere, Somalia

The attack came soon after naval forces from NATO, Russia, and India began to patrol the Horn of Africa region, in response to MV Faina hijacking seven weeks earlier and many other incidents. However, these patrols focus further north, especially near the Gulf of Aden, and the attack came as a surprise. A British intelligence expert commented that "there will never be enough warships" to secure so much of the Indian Ocean by patrol.[28]

This attack has shown that the pirates are now operating in an area of over 2.8 million square kilometers (1.1 million square miles),[29] which extends beyond the recently established international patrols closer to the Horn of Africa.[9] News of the attack raised crude oil prices on global markets.[30]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i (29210)"Sirius Star". DNV Exchange. Det Norske Veritas.
  2. ^ a b c "Sirius Star Launching Ceremony". Vela International. Retrieved 18 November 2008. 
  3. ^ a b c McCann, Sarah More (17 November 2008). "Somali pirates attack tanker loaded with oil".  
  4. ^ Walker, Robert (18 November 2008). "Pirates pass open water test".  
  5. ^ a b c "Saudi super-tanker taken to Somali pirate lair". Google News.  
  6. ^ James Bridger (4 Nov 2013). "The Rise of Fall of Somalia's Pirate King". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 5 Nov 2013. 
  7. ^ a b Lee, Eon-Jeong (17 June 2008). "Vela Owned H.5302 Marks DSME's 100th" (PDF). OKPO Gazette (Okpo, Korea: Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering) 1 (431): 1. Retrieved 19 November 2008. 
  8. ^ Sirius Star Launching Ceremony. 28 March 2008.
  9. ^ a b  
  10. ^ a b "Somali pirates hijack Saudi Arabian-owned oil tanker". Xinhua Net. 18 November 2008. Retrieved 18 November 2008. 
  11. ^ Philp, Catherine (18 November 2008). "Somali pirates hijack Saudi oil tanker with Britons on board". The Times (London). Retrieved 18 November 2008. 
  12. ^ "Pirates capture Saudi oil tanker". BBC News. 17 November 2008. Retrieved 18 November 2008. 
  13. ^ Glendinning, Lee (17 November 2008). "Pirates take over oil tanker with British crew on board".  
  14. ^ "Hijacked ship anchors off Somali coast".  
  15. ^ a b c "Vela Press Release". 18 November 2008. Retrieved 18 November 2008. 
  16. ^ "Update: Polish crew on pirated tanker off Somali coast". Polskie Radio S.A. 19 November 2008. Retrieved 20 November 2008. 
  17. ^ "Znamy nazwiska polskich marynarzy z Sirius Star". Radio ZET. 18 November 2008. Retrieved 25 November 2008. 
  18. ^ a b c d Brown, David (19 November 2008). "Sirius Star officers named as negotiations begin with pirates".  
  19. ^ Staff writers (20 November 2008). "'"Somali tanker pirates 'want US$25m. BBC News. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  20. ^ Williams, David; Gysin, Christian (20 November 2008). "Miliband hints UK will not pay Somali pirates $25m ransom for safe return of Sirius Star ship and British crew".  
  21. ^ Staff writers (20 November 2008). "No ransoms for pirates, UK insists". BBC News. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  22. ^ a b Sheikh, Abdi (24 November 2008). "Somali pirates want $15 million for Saudi ship: Islamist".  
  23. ^ Sheikh, Abdi (22 November 2008). "Somali rebels take steps to attack tanker pirates". Reuters. Retrieved 22 November 2008. 
  24. ^ Staff writers (9 January 2009). "'"Saudi tanker 'freed off Somalia. BBC News. Retrieved 10 January 2009. 
  25. ^ "Somali pirates drown with share of ransom from Sirius Star hijack". The Guardian (London). 10 January 2009. Retrieved 10 January 2009. 
  26. ^ "'"Pirate 'washes ashore with cash. BBC News. 12 January 2009. Retrieved 12 January 2009. 
  27. ^ Ibrahim, Mohammed; Bowley, Graham (9 January 2009). "Pirates Say They Freed Saudi Tanker for $3 Million".  
  28. ^ Associated Press (17 November 2008). "Somali pirates seize supertanker loaded with crude". Yahoo News. Archived from the original on 20 November 2008. 
  29. ^ a b "Pirates take 'super tanker' towards Somalia".  
  30. ^

External links

  • Coordination marée noire: Sirius Star
  • Sirius StarSailor tells of the moment pirates captured
  • Hostage's secret pictures of £2m ransom drop on ship hijacked by pirates
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