The pirates had approached the tanker from the stern in speedboats and thrown grapnel hooks tied to rope ladders, most likely boarding unopposed as the ship cruised on auto-pilot with nobody keeping watch on the bridge.
Somalis on shore were stunned by the gigantic vessel — as long as an aircraft carrier at 1,080 feet — as it passed just off the coast. Two small boats floated out to the ship and 18 men — presumably other pirates — climbed aboard with ropes woven into a ladder.
Commander Jane Campbell, of the US Navy's 5th Fleet, told the BBC it had warned shipping companies that the US naval presence could "not be everywhere", adding: "For that reason we have strongly encouraged proactive self-protection measures for the companies."
"Our first and foremost priority is ensuring the safety of the crew," Salah B. Ka'aki, President & CEO of Vela International Marine Ltd. said. "We are in communication with their families and are working toward their safe and speedy return."
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