A major Japanese oil tanker was damaged Monday in a chase by heavily-armed pirates off the coasts of Somalia and Yemen but no one was injured, officials and crew members said.
The area is plagued by insecurity and considered to be among the most dangerous waterways for shipping in the world.
The 150,000-tonne tanker Takayama, with a crew of 23, sustained damage but was able to sail on its own power after the attack at about 4:40 am local time (0140 GMT), its owner and operator Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK Line) said here.
The attack occurred in international waters some 440 kilometres (275 miles) east of the Yemeni , Japanese officials said.
Nippon Yusen said one unidentified boat was involved in the attack, while a Japan Coast Guard official said the number of vessels operated by the pirates had yet to be confirmed.
The tanker's crew included 16 Filipinos and seven Japanese, the shipping company said.
The ship suffered small punctures and leaked a small amount of oil, said Shousuke Hamada, who manages the ship's operations.
The tanker was on its way to the Saudi of in the Red Sea after unloading oil at the South Korean when the attack happened, the company said.
Maritime security is a major concern for , the world's second largest economy, which relies on the for nearly all of its oil.The International Maritime Bureau has urged ships plying the gulf to maintain strict 24-hour anti-piracy vigilance against small, suspicious boats coming towards them.
The hostages were released when a ransom, believed to be around two million dollars (1.3 million euros), was paid.