COLOMBO, March 14 (Xinhua) -- Sri Lanka's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that it was monitoring the alleged hijacking of a Sri Lankan flagged fuel freighter by Somali pirates and was in touch with shipping agents and concerned authorities.
"The ministry is aware of media reports regarding the alleged hijacking of a reportedly "Sri Lankan-flagged fuel freighter" by pirates," the Foreign Ministry said.
"The ministry is taking action to verify the alleged incident, and initial inquiries have revealed that while the vessel involved is not registered under a Sri Lankan flag, it has a 8-member Sri Lankan crew," it added.
The ministry further said it continued to remain in touch with the shipping agents, concerned authorities, as well as relevant Sri Lanka missions overseas to ascertain further information on the matter in order to ensure the safety and welfare of the Sri Lankan crew.
"Therefore, as and when confirmed information regarding the alleged incident becomes available, the ministry will share information in a manner that would not be prejudicial to the safety of the crew."
Foreign media reports said on Tuesday that Somali pirates were suspected of hijacking the Sri Lankan-flagged fuel freighter that sent a distress call, turned off its tracking system and altered course for the Somali coast, according to a piracy expert.
The Aris 13 was believed to be carrying eight crew, said John Steed of the aid group Oceans Beyond Piracy.
Aircraft from regional naval force EU Navfor were flying overhead to track the ship's progress and try to determine what was happening, he said.
The 1,800 deadweight ton Aris 13 is owned by Panama company Armi Shipping and managed by Aurora Ship Management in the United Arab Emirates, according to the Equasis shipping data website, managed by the French Transport Ministry.