Pirates captured an Italian-flagged tugboat with 16 crew including 10 Italians on Saturday, in the latest hijacking in the busy Gulf of Aden.
The tugboat, with enough fuel and food on board to last a month, was believed to be heading toward the Somali coast, the head of the Italian company that owns the boat told Reuters.
“I’ve entered into contact with the families (of the crew),” Claudio Bartolotti, head of Ravenna-based Micoperi Srl, said, adding there were also five Romanians and one Croatian on board.
Bartolotti denied reports the 75-metre-long tugboat was U.S.-owned, saying his company had recently purchased it.
NATO alliance officials on a warship in the region had previously described the boat as U.S.-owned, Italian-flagged.
Andrew Mwangura, of the Mombasa-based East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme, said the tugboat’s crew were believed to be unharmed.
He said the tugboat was towing two barges at the time of capture but there were no details about their cargo.
“This incident shows the pirates are becoming more daring and violent,” Mwangura told Reuters by phone.