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Somali pirates seize oil tanker. Where are the anti-piracy forces?

The Greek-owned Maran Centaurus was seized Sunday more than 800 miles east of Mogadishu fully loaded with an estimated 2 million barrels of oil heading for New Orleans from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

In this undated photo released by the Maran Tankers company, the Greece-flagged tanker Maran Centaurus is seen at an unknown location. The Maran Centaurus was seized by Somali pirates Sunday.

Maran Tankers/AP

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Almost exactly a year ago, a handful of modern-day pirates from Somalia in small, open skiffs shocked the world by hijacking a 1,090-foot oil tanker carrying $100 million of crude bound for the US.

Within months, a three-dozen-strong flotilla of vessels flying the flags of at least 12 different international navies had been deployed to protect shipping passing through what had become the world's most dangerous waters.

Yet, on Monday, the pirates did it again.

A second Very Large Crude Carrier, the Greek-owned Maran Centaurus, was seized more than 800 miles east of Mogadishu fully loaded with an estimated 2 million barrels of oil heading for New Orleans from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Monday's attack is raising fresh questions about the effectiveness of the international effort to curb piracy, headquartered at the US Fifth Fleet's base in Bahrain.

"The reason it's still happening is that the big international naval deployment is concentrated in the Gulf of Aden, where there is a clearly defined, narrow shipping corridor, which is a much easier area to police," said Roger Middleton, piracy expert at the Chatham House think tank in London. "Now the pirates have packed up and moved much deeper into the Indian Ocean, which is just an enormous area. With the 30 or 40 ships available to the international naval force it is just not possible to police it properly."

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