Africa

Somali pirates hijack Italian cargo ship off Oman

File photo of a ship hijacked by Somali pirates
Image caption Somali pirates appear to be finding it increasingly difficult to hijack vessels at sea

Somali pirates have hijacked an Italian cargo ship with 18 crew off the coast of Oman, according to Indian shipping officials.

The Turkey-bound Enrico Ievoli is now reportedly headed for the Somali coast.

The crew includes seven Indians, six Italians and five Ukrainians, the report said.

The incident comes at a time when Somali pirates appear to be finding it increasingly difficult to hijack vessels at sea.

Latest figures provided by the European Naval Force show just 12 attempted pirate attacks in November 2011, compared to 35 in the same period last year.

Correspondents say this is partly the result of the growing number of armed guards on board ships.

But at least 200 hostages are still being held in, or just off, Somalia.

India's Directorate General of Shipping said in a statement that the hijacked ship was carrying a cargo of caustic soda from Iran to Turkey.

"The master of the vessel has reportedly informed the owners that the ship is now bound to Somali coast. There are no reports with regards to any injuries to the crew," the release said.

It added that 43 Indian crew members of various ships have been held by Somali pirates.