The Royal Navy must step up its battle against pirates - or motorists will have to pay more at the pump, an MP has warned.
John Spellar (Lab Warley) urged the British government to give the Royal Navy more resources, and more freedom to take on pirates across the world.
He said the need to combat piracy was highlighted by the hijacking by of a supertanker carrying £125 million worth of crude oil off the coast of Oman.
Somali pirates are believed to have seized the Greek tanker, even though the incident, in the Indian Ocean, took place hundreds of miles from Somalia.
But the growing threat of piracy had a direct impact on commuters and businesses in the West Midlands by pushing up the cost of petrol, said Mr Spellar.
The MP, who is also the deputy opposition spokesman on Foreign Affairs, raised his concerns in the House of Commons, saying: “Piracy is a growing threat to life, especially off the horn of Africa, and a big business worth more than £100 million a year, funding crime and, increasingly, terrorism.”
He asked Foreign Office Minister Henry Billingham: “Does he accept that we are now close to a tipping point on that vital trade route? Will he work with international partners to boost the anti-piracy forces that he has mentioned, and will he consider revising their rules of engagement?”
Mr Billingham said: “I would not say that we were at a tipping point, but the problem has got worse. The pirates now have greater capability, as they can deploy much further out into the ocean through their use of mother ships.
“The Royal Navy is keeping the rules of engagement under review at all times, and, as I have said, we have a ministerial working party that is looking at every single option for the future.”
Afterwards Mr Spellar added: “As the Minister also told the Commons, pirates are now holding 29 vessels and 694 hostages and the situation is deteriorating. There needs to be a rapid and vigorous response to keep this vital trade route open for oil and goods and protect the lives of sailors.”