5 May 2010 20:17

Hijacked ship has been away from Russia for weeks

MOSCOW. May 5 (Interfax) - The Russian oil tanker Moskovsky Universitet (Moscow University), hijacked by pirates off East Africa on Wednesday, has not been to a Russian port for at least a month, sources said.

"According to the vessels database that monitors the movements of ships under international memorandums that have been ratified by Russia, that tanker called at a Russian port in February - the Vostochny Port [in the Far East]. The vessel was heading for Korea. The last time the Moskovsky Universitet called at the port of Novorossiysk was in 2007," a source in the administration of the Russian port of Novorossiysk told Interfax.

There has been no contact with the tanker since pirates seized the ship, which is owned by the Novorossiysk Shipping Company, also known as Novoship .

The Moskovsky Universitet is chartered by a foreign company and carries foreign oil, the source said.

Spokesmen for major Russian oil companies told Interfax none of the firms had chartered the Moskovsky Universitet recently.

A spokesman for the Russian Pacific Port of Kozmino, the final point of the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean Oil Pipeline (ESPO), told Interfax the ship had not been to the port for one to two months.

The Moskovsky Universitet was the first tanker to be filled with oil from the ESPO after the pipeline was opened on December 28, 2009, which shipped oil for the Russian oil company Rosneft .