'Flurry' of hijackings over the weekend

Pirates have seized a British-owned ship in the Gulf of Aden, maritime officials said today.

The 32,000-tonne UK-owned, Italian-operated bulk carrier was hijacked early this morning, according to the EU’s maritime security centre, based in London.

The Associated Press named the ship as theMalaspina Castle, which flies a Panamanian flag. There was no immediate information about the location of the attack, but the mixed nationality crew are believed to be safe.

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB), part of the international chamber of commerce, recently reported a big increase in pirate attacks off Somali.

Somali pirates seized a French yacht, a German vessel and a Yemeni tugboat over the weekend in a flurry of hijackings in the Indian Ocean, a group monitoring piracy said. An Indian cargo ship was also seized and released last week.

Ecoterra International, an environmental group that monitors illegal marine activities in the region, said that a French-flagged yacht with four crew had been captured on Saturday about 400 miles off northeast Somalia.’The abducted yacht is currently sailing with eight knots towards the Somali Puntland coast,’ a spokesman said.

In January and February, two pirate assaults were reported, but 15 attacks were reported last month, the IMB said.

Pirates attacked more than 130 merchant ships in the Gulf of Aden last year, more than double the number the previous year, according to the IMB.