This week's capture of a Saudi supertanker by Somali pirates sent
a chill through international shipping and turned up the heat on
politicians and businessmen across the region.
On Thursday, diplomats from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Sudan,
Yemen, and the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia met in a
closed-door meeting in Cairo to share their concerns over the
possible effects of piracy on much-needed shipping and trade.
But government officials and independent analysts agree that,
without efforts by North American, European, and Asian countries,
there is little that the Arab states that border the Red Sea can do
to defend their economic interests from the lawlessness leaking out
"To resolve the problem we are under no illusions that the Red
Sea countries can solve a problem that exists outside the Red Sea,"
says Hossam Zaki, a spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.
He says the meeting was meant to "coordinate thinking and ideas"
among the countries of the Red Sea region. Options for future action
were said to include setting up a piracy monitoring center, joint
maneuvers by Arab navies, and warning systems, although few
specifics were immediately available.
Firms consider rerouting ships
Earlier in the day, major international shipping firm A.P. Moller-
Maersk announced plans to reroute some of its fleet around South
Africa's Cape of Good Hope to avoid the possibility of pirate
attacks in the Gulf of Aden. Norway's Frontline, another large
shipping company, said it was "definitely considering," doing the
"We haven't done it yet. We are definitely considering it. It's
possible," Martin Jensen told Reuters. "Of course, like many in the
industry, we are instructing all our ships to call as close to Yemen
and as far from Somalia as possible."
Last weekend's hijacking of the Sirius Star tanker jolted Arab
leaders and global shipping firms to attention. The ship was
travelling from Saudi Arabia to the United States via the Cape of
Good Hope when it was seized about 450 nautical miles off the coast
of Kenya. It was carrying a full load of oil, roughly equivalent to
one-fourth of Saudi Arabia's daily output, worth $100 million.
Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told reporters in
Rome on Wednesday that the ship's owners, Dubai-based Vela
International Marine Ltd., were talking to the pirates, who have
demanded $25 million in ransom.
Arab countries concerned about trade
Thursday's closed-door meeting in Cairo underscores the degree to
which the Arab states of the Red Sea region feel threatened by the
increasingly daring pirate attacks and their increasingly valuable