Ecoterra International, an NGO monitoring maritime activities in the region, said the ship 'MT Aspahalt Venture' was sailing to Durban in South Africa from the Kenyan port of Mombasa when it was seized at about 4 a.m. local time (0100 GMT).
M/T Asphalt Venture kidnapped
Ecoterra said the vessel, now under the control of the pirates, is headed for Harardhere, one of the main bases of the pirates on the eastern coast of Somalia. It belongs to Company Bitumen Invest As, based in the United Arab Emirates (Sharjah), said the NGO.
The latest hijacking came after a Greek-owned chemical tanker carrying a crew of 15 Georgians and three Turks was hijacked earlier this month in a protected corridor in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia.
International naval forces have stepped up patrolling in the high seas in an effort to thwart rampant piracy off the coast of the Horn of Africa, especially in the coastal waters of Somalia, considered one of the world's most dangerous stretches of water because of piracy.
Experts say piracy will continue to be a problem until an effective government is established in Somalia, which has been plagued by factional fighting between warlords and has not had a functioning government for 19 years since the 1991 ouster of former President Mohammed Siad Barre.
Somalia is at the entrance to the Gulf of Aden, which leads to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, one of the world's most important shipping channels.