Major oil shipper calls for military force against Somali pirates

SINGAPORE (AP) -- One of the world's largest oil tanker companies is calling for a multinational military force to protect ships against pirates off the Somali coast.

Frontline Ltd. says without such actions, ships will have to be diverted around South Africa instead of heading past Somalia and through the Red Sea and Suez Canal. That southern route is about 40 percent longer and the company say that would send shipping costs skyrocketing.

The Bermuda-based company sails five to 10 tankers of crude oil a month through the Gulf of Aden. It says it's negotiating a change of shipping routes with some of its customers, including Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP and Chevron.

Worries about pirates have grown this week after gunmen highjacked a Saudi tanker carrying 2 million barrels of oil off the coast of Kenya. More than 120 pirate attacks have been reported off the coast of Somalia so far this year.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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