Somali Pirates Hijack Tanker and Cargo Ship
214 vessels have been attacked this year
By Sarah Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 29, 2009 6:49 AM CST
The British-registered St James Park is shown in this October 2009 file photo. The ship was seized yesterday by Somali pirates.   (AP Photo/Derek Lilley)

(Newser) – Somali pirates have seized a Greek cargo ship and a chemical tanker operating under a British flag, the New York Times reports. That puts 2009's Somali hijacking total at 47, with 214 vessels attacked in the Gulf of Aden and along the Somali coast. Twelve ships—carrying 263 people—are still being held for ransom. The tanker, the St James Park, sent a distress signal yesterday and is being taken toward Somalia with 26 crew members on board. No details were given about the cargo ship, which is carrying 19.

In response to the increase in attacks, the US, EU, China, Japan, and other nations have upped their presence in the Gulf of Aden. "The success rate in taking ships has dropped dramatically in the gulf because of the large naval presence now," said an official from the piracy reporting center in Malaysia. The bad news: The pirates are turning their attention to the southern and eastern coasts of Somalia, where they have "a free hand." In other hijacking news, pirates have released a container ship from Singapore that was hijacked in October, the AP reports.