2010-03-05 * FRI * 23h59:17 UTC
by Cheng Chi-feng and Lillian Lin ENDITEM/J
The Taiwanese tuna boat Win Far 161, which was hijacked by Somali pirates, held for 10 months and released Feb. 11, returned to Kaohsiung Harbor in southern Taiwan Thursday, minus two of its crew, who died in captivity.
Upon arrival, police immediately went aboard to find out more about the deaths of the two men — one Chinese and an Indonesian. According to the surviving crewmen, both men died of illness.
When the boat was hijacked in Somali waters April 6 last year, there were 30 crew members. Apart from the Taiwanese skipper and chief engineer, most of the crew of the 700-ton fishing boat were Filipinos, Indonesians and Chinese.
[N.B. : Even the Taiwanese Foreign Minister was fooled by the hideous vessel owner into believing that all crew survived and coerced into vehemently rejecting independent reports provided by ECOTERRA Intl. stating that there were dead sailors on board. The Foreign Minister later retracted, apologies still pending, but so far no independent criminal investigation of the case, which also had an involvement in the attack on US-flagged container vessel MAERSK ALABAMA, has commenced.]
BREAKING NEWS :
Somali Pirates sea-jack Norwegian Tanker off Seychelles (sap/ecoterra)
A Marshall Islands-flagged oil-product tanker with 21 crew was captured today in the Indian Ocean by presumed Somali pirates.
The 9,224dwt UBT OCEAN was taken this morning while heading towards Dar es Salaam, the Seafarers Assistance Programme reported. Naval centers confirmed the attack at position 04°34’S-048°09’E Indian Ocean and reported as time 06h39 UTC (0939 LT).
The Royal Navy’s Dubai-based UK Maritime Trade Operations told Fairplay that it received a call from the vessel this morning, with one crew member saying it was being attacked, but the office was unable to obtain any further information due to poor reception.
“Since then, we have tried to phone them repeatedly, but haven’t been successful,” a UKMTO watchkeeper said.
Fairplay was unable to contact the vessel’s operator, Singapore-based Nautictank. However, the vessel is now heading north toward Somali waters, the ship’s Norwegian owners said Friday.
The UBT Ocean, with a crew of 21, was carrying fuel oil from the United Arab Emirates to Tanzania, Svenn Pedersen, chief executive of shipowners Brovigtank, told Reuters. He said contact was lost with the vessel at about 0530 GMT Friday. "It’s a relatively small ship of about 9,000 dead weight tonnes and about 120 meters long."
Pedersen declined to specify the nationalities of the 21 all-Asian crew. Mr Pedersen said the owners had received a call from the captain who said there were pirates on board the ship.
"The captain of the ship called us early this morning and told us : we have pirates on board. Very quickly afterwards we lost all contact with the boat," company director Svenn Pedersen told AFP news agency.
The vessel had taken a route well south of the zone where pirates operate, Pedersen added.
It appeared later to be northbound towards Somalia, he said, stressing that he did not know if the crew had suffered any injuries.
Norway’s foreign ministry said it had been alerted of a Norwegian-owned ship being hijacked.
A spokesman said since the vessel was not Norwegian-flagged or had any nationals in the crew, Oslo would not have a major role in the evolution of the situation. The UBT Ocean is registered in the Marshall Islands and was captured between the East Africa coast and the archipelago of the Seychelles - not around Madagascar as many media falsely reported.
Its seizure comes two days after pirates captured a Saudi tanker and its crew in the Gulf of Aden and sailed it to the Somali town of Garacad.
An international naval force is patrolling the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean but has been unable to stop attacks on shipping from pirates based in Somalia, says the BBC.
War-ravaged Somalia has had no functioning government since 1991.
SOMALI SEA-WOLVES ATTACK IN THE SOMALI BASIN (sap/ecoterra)
Reports reaching Mombasa early this morning, Friday, indicated that a Norwegian owned merchant vessel came under attack by two skiffs and a carrier boat at position 04°34’S-048°09’E, the East African Seafarers Assistance Programme reported.
If the given position is correct, the attack position is - on a 90° ankle from the Somali coastline from around Brawa in Southern Somalia - a distance of approximately slightly over 500nm off the Somali coast and thereby it would have happened outside the 200nm zone and outside Somalia’s 350nm continental shelf zone.
Since due to the curved coastline of Kenya the attack position is also around 620 nm straight east of Mombasa, the Kenyans feel that they must be concerned - though this incident of clear piracy happened far outside their waters and also outside the EEZ of the Seychelles.
However, a little later today at 09h45 UTC (06h45LT) the IMB/PRC raised an alarm concerning an attack at position 03°21’S-045°32’E, where a fishing vessel came under an attack by 4 skiffs - this time closer to Somalia.
Already yesterday the Maritime Security Centre raised an alarm concerning an attack by 5 skiffs at 14h00 UTC (17h00LT) on a vessel, which was said to be a French industrial tuna fishing boat, in position 01°17S-047°07E, which was well inside the 200 nm zone of Somalia and just around 150 nm straight off the beach of Mogadishu. So far the EU NAVFOR operations centre has refused to identify the vessel.
It often has been observed that Somali coastal defenders - which can not be termed pirates - follow fishing vessels found to fish illegally in their waters also outside the 200nm zone in hot pursuit.
The exact position of the yesterday widely publicized attack on the Spanish tuna hauler FV Albatun, which according to other information already happened a day earlier than reported by the naval commands, has so far also not been revealed.
Is was and still seems to be common practise by vessels fishing illegally in Somali waters to not report the exact time and position. Only when such vessels come into a serious distress situation the true position is revealed - often very close to the Somali shores. Since Spanish and French tuna vessels now carry armed personnel, the attacks against such vessel show the desperation of the Somalis.
The four attacks on fishing vessels during two days comes at a time when the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission officially closed also a large area off the Somali coast for industrial tuna fisheries. The Somali Government had already in April 2009 revoked all and any foreign fishing licences, many of which had been issued fraudulently. That moratorium will not be lifted until a new fisheries law and policy are in place and can be enforced.
Recently the Minister of Justice and Constitution of Somalia Mohamed Farah had protested against the foreign warships, which obviously protect their nation’s fishing vessels poaching in Somali waters.
LATEST NEWS :
Parliament calls for immediate release of British couple (Mareeg)
Somalia’s parliament has called for the immediate release of a British couple kidnapped by Somali pirates on Thursday.
The deputy speaker of the Somali parliament, Professor Mohamed Omar Dalha called for the unconditional and immediate release of the British couple, Paul and Rachel Chandler.
"The Somali parliament and the public are deeply disturbed by the unlawful detention by pirates of the British couple, Paul and Rachel Chandler," said a statement by deputy speaker Professor Mohamed Omar Dalha.
The British couple was abducted by Somali pirates near Seychelles in October last year are being held separately in Mudug region in central Somalia.
The Pirates demanded ransom to free the British couple.
Call for pirates to release British hostages Paul and Rachel Chandler (AFP/HeraldSun)
THE Somali parliament has called for the unconditional and immediate release of a British couple held hostage by pirates since their yacht was hijacked in October.
"The Somali parliament and the public are deeply disturbed by the unlawful detention by pirates of the British couple, Paul and Rachel Chandler," Deputy Speaker Mohamed Omar Dalha said.
"Parliament calls for their immediate and unconditional release on humanitarian grounds due to their age and poor health."
The Chandlers were sailing from the Indian Ocean archipelago of the Seychelles to Tanzania when their small yacht, the Lynn Rival, was captured by ransom-hunting pirates on October 23. They were later brought ashore and held separately in Somalia’s Mudug region, north of the main pirate lair Harardhere.
Parliament called "upon all the traditional elders, clerics, women’s groups, professional and the public at large in Mudug region to urge the pirates to immediately release the Chandlers and end the inhuman psychological torture inflicted upon them." In a telephone interview with Somali television, carried by British networks earlier this week, 56-year-old Rachel Chandler reiterated her distress at being separated from her 60-year-old husband.
One of the pirates explained that reuniting the couple was ruled out for security reasons.
The amount demanded by the pirates for the Chandlers’ release was unclear. Britain, which last week banned Somalia’s Al Qaeda-inspired Shebab movement, maintains a policy of not paying ransoms despite some warnings that pirates risked selling their hostages to more political groups to cut their losses.
British couple could be released within weeks (AP)
A retired British couple snatched last year from their sailboat by pirates could be released within weeks as Somali communities inside and outside the East African country work for their freedom, a Somali official said Friday. Paul and Rachel Chandler were forced by pirates off their 38-foot yacht, the Lynn Rival, and onto an open skiff in October as they headed to Tanzania. Soon after, their pirate captors demanded $7 million to release the Chandlers. Britain’s government refuses to pay ransoms to kidnappers.
Mohamed Omar Dalha, the deputy speaker of Somalia’s parliament, told The Associated Press that Somali communities inside and outside the chaos-wracked country have been working to negotiate the "unconditional release" of the Chandlers. Dalha said Friday that he was hopeful they would be released within two weeks. "We are hopeful that the British couple will be released as soon as possible without condition," he said.
It is extremely unusual for pirates to release hostages without being paid ransom money — or what pirates sometimes label their "expenses" for costs incurred while holding hostages. Nevertheless, Dalha said he was discouraging that any ransom be paid, to discourage future hostage-taking.
The Chandlers are among about 130 sailors held hostage in Somalia, which has not had a stable government since warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
In the latest pirate attack, the EU Naval Force said it intercepted a pirate group of one mothership and two skiffs early Friday. The pirates earlier attacked a French vessel that had private security on board who repelled the assault.
An EU Naval Force helicopter tracked down the pirates and watched them throw a rocket launcher, grappling hooks and fuel barrels into the ocean. The EU Naval Force said it destroyed the mothership and one skiff and took 11 pirates into custody. Pirate attacks have been increasing off East Africa the last several years. Pirates attacked ships 217 times in 2009, according to the International Maritime Bureau. That was up from 111 attacks in 2008.
Last year, the average ransom was around $2 million, according to piracy expert Roger Middleton of the British think tank Chatham House. This year, two ransoms paid were around $3 million and $7 million, he said, citing industry officials.
British couple held by Somali pirates ’could be free within days’ (Telegraph) Paul and Rachel Chandler, the British couple who have been held hostage by Somali pirates for more than four months, could be free within days, according to a member of the country’s administration.
Professor Mohamed Omar Dalha, deputy speaker of the parliament in the East African state, has claimed that negotiations for the pair’s release were progressing quickly and pledged that they would be freed "within ten days", according to the Daily Mail.
The gang that kidnapped the Chandlers from their yacht have said they want a £1.3million ransom and have threatened to shoot the couple if they don’t get the money.
But Professor Dalha claimed the pirates were close to relenting and releasing the Chandlers, whose health has suffered greatly since their detention began.
"We have sent a representative to Haradheere [the district of Somalia where the Chandlers are being held] and for the past week talks with the pirates have been going on day and night," he told the Daily Mail.
"We are appealing to them through their traditional and religious leaders, as well as their own brothers and sisters - people they know and trust - and at last they are listening.
"We are optimistic that the Chandlers will be released within a week or ten days at most, without condition. I am absolutely confident that by the end of next week they will be on their way home to Britain."
Mr Chandler, 60, and his wife, 56, were captured on Oct 23 as they sailed from the Seychelles to Tanzania.
BRITISH COUPLE KIDNAPPED BY PIRATES MAY BE FREE IN 10 DAYS by Anil Dawar (Express)
THE British couple held captive by Somali pirates for more than four months may soon be free.
A senior member of the Somali government claimed Paul and Rachel Chandler would be freed “within 10 days”.
News of the East African government’s intervention is the first sign that formal negotiations have been taking place.
The pirates have demanded a £1.3million ransom for the pair and warned they would be shot this month if the money was not paid.
But Professor Mohamed Omar Dalha, the Somali parliament’s deputy speaker, said the gang were on the brink of releasing the Chandlers because their health is deteriorating rapidly.
“Talks with the pirates have been going on day and night,” he added. “We are appealing to them through their traditional and religious leaders, as well as their brothers and sisters, people they know and trust, and at last they are listening. “We are optimistic that the Chandlers will be released within a week or 10 days at most, without condition. I am confident that by the end of next week they will be on their way home.”
Mr Chandler, 60, and his wife, 56, from Tunbridge Wells in Kent, were captured last October when pirates boarded their 38ft yacht as they sailed across the Indian Ocean from the Seychelles to Tanzania.
In a series of anguished video messages and phone calls the couple have told of being beaten, starved and kept apart in makeshift tents.
In an appeal at the weekend Mr Chandler, who needs urgent treatment for an eye infection that could leave him blind, described his misery at being separated from his wife on their 29th wedding anniversary.
Foreign Secretary David Miliband has said he will not negotiate with the pirates.
Pirates ‘to free yacht couple in 10 days’ by Kiran Randhawa
The British couple held hostage by Somali pirates could be freed within 10 days, it emerged today.
Paul Chandler, 60, and his 56-year-old wife Rachel were kidnapped more than four months ago as they sailed from the Seychelles to Tanzania.
Their captors demanded a £1.3 million ransom for the release of the couple from Tunbridge Wells and warned without the money the pair would be shot.
But a member of the Somali government claimed negotiations with the gang were now progressing rapidly and that they could be freed soon.
Professor Mohamed Omar Dalha, deputy speaker of the parliament, said they had appealed to the pirates, who are holding the couple in Haradheere, to release them without condition.
news from sea-jackings, abductions, newly attacked ships as well as seafarers and vessels in distress
Ship repels pirate attack (SAPA)
Armed, private security guards on a Spanish trawler repelled an attack by pirates in the Indian Ocean on Friday, the second such incident in two days, Spain’s fisheries federation said.
The attack on the trawler Intertuna II took place 350 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia, the federation, Cepesca, said in a statement.
"There was an exchange of fire between the pirates and the security guards on board. The pirates finally fled."
It said there were no injuries or damage in the incident. Another Spanish fishing boat, the Intertuna III, also fled the scene after spotting the pirates, it said.
On Thursday, security guards on another Spanish trawler also thwarted an attack in the Indian Ocean by pirates, who used rocket-propelled grenades.
Last year, 16 Spanish crew on a tuna trawler, the Alakrana, were held for more than a month by Somali pirates before a $4m ransom was paid.
Spain last April allowed Spanish-flagged vessels to employ private security guards to protect them against pirates in the Indian Ocean. It also later authorised the guards to use military-grade weapons.
But the government has refused to follow France’s lead in deploying troops to protect ships in Somali waters.
French warship team destroys pirate boats (CNN)
The European Union’s anti-piracy mission destroyed a pirate ship and a skiff in the Indian Ocean on Friday and took nearly a dozen suspected pirates into custody, the mission said.
The mission intercepted the ship and two skiffs early Friday in the southern Indian Ocean between Seychelles and Mombasa, Kenya. The mission said the pirates were in an area where an earlier attack had occurred.
A helicopter from the French warship FS Nivose then tracked the vessels and saw the suspected pirates throwing things overboard, the mission said.
When a French team arrived at the scene, it found 11 suspected pirates and "pirate paraphernalia" in the skiffs : a rocket launcher, grappling hooks and several fuel barrels. The forces destroyed the pirate ship and a skiff and took the suspected pirates into custody. The fate of the second skiff was not immediately known.
[N.B. : Reports speak of eleven arrested and two "missing" Somalis.]
Pirates hit Spanish fishing ship with RPG by Katharine Hourheld (AP)
Private security guards aboard a Spanish fishing trawler fought a gunbattle with Somali pirates on the Indian Ocean Thursday, as confrontations between mariners and brigands off the coast of Africa become more violent.
The pirates hit the Albacan with a rocket-propelled grenade, causing a fire that was quickly extinguished, officials said. None of the 33 crew members or three guards was hurt. Three private guards aboard the Albacan fired back at the pirates, a ship’s owners association said. The pirates fled.
The high-seas firefight underscores what maritime officials say is a deepening trend on the seas off East Africa : increasingly violent attacks from pirates desperate for the millions of dollars in ransom that are routinely paid for hijacked ships. Maritime officials say pirates are ratcheting up the violence of their attacks as ships and crews become better at fending them off. Only seven ships were fired on worldwide in 2004, but 114 ships were fired on last year off the Somali coast alone, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
The Albacan was fishing between Kenya and the island nation of Seychelles when two skiffs approached carrying pirates brandishing weapons, the EU Naval Force said.
"The crew took refuge inside the ship while the security team confronted the pirates," the ship owners association Cepesca said in a statement from Spain. "There was an exchange of gunfire and the pirates also fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the vessel before fleeing."
The EU Naval Force said the guards fired above the heads of the pirates, implying that no pirates were hurt.
Some ships have begun carrying armed guards in hopes of deterring high-seas assaults. Ship owners are also investing in physical defenses like stringing razor wire and adding fire hoses that can hit attackers with streams of high-pressure water. Some ships are even having electric fence-style systems installed.
Rising ransoms may also be a factor in the increasing violence of attacks. Piracy expert Roger Middleton of the British think tank Chatham House said that last year the average ransom was around $2 million, giving the pirates a total haul of around $100 million for 2009. This year, two paid ransoms were much higher, coming in at around $3 million and $7 million, he said.
Somali pirates are currently holding six hijacked ships and 132 sailors, including a British couple kidnapped off their private sailboat last year. Somalia’s parliament on Thursday called for the unconditional release of the couple, Paul and Rachel Chandler. The parliament urged elders, clerics and women’s groups to press for their release on grounds of their advanced age and poor health. A statement said the U.K. government "has been very kind to our large diaspora community living in the United Kingdom and it’s upon us to reciprocate their benevolence" by working for the Chandlers’ release.
Another Sri Lankan crew held by pirates by Rasika Somarathna
Thirteen Sri Lankans are reported to be among the crew of a Saudi Arabian oil tanker, hijacked by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden, close to the Somali waters Monday. AFP news agency quoting Andrew Mwangura, head of the East African Seafarers Assistance Program, yesterday reported that MT AL Nisr Al Saudi, a 5,136 deadweight-tonne tanker, was seized Monday by Somali Pirates, with its Greek Captain and 13 Sri Lankan crew members.
The tanker was reportedly on its way from Japan to Jeddah.
When contacted by the Daily News, a Foreign Ministry Official said that they were looking into the matter and added that a clearer picture would emerge by today.
Last week three Sri Lankans including the captain of the cargo ship Ro-Ro MV Leila, being held off the Somali port of Berbera since September 15, 2009, were freed. [N.B. : Unfortunately they are free by law but still held hostage at the lawless port of Berbera and its the irresponsible manager as well as the ignorance of the vessel-owner.] The latest piracy attack on another vessel in the Gulf of Aden, considered one of the busiest trade routes in the world with reportedly 100 ships using the route daily, comes in spite of an unprecedented anti-piracy naval deployment in the area with the co-operation of several countries.
Somali pirates demand $20m for hijacked tanker (arabianbusiness)
Somali pirates have demanded a $20m ransom for a Saudi product tanker hijacked in the Gulf of Aden on Monday.
Arab News reported that a spokesman for the owner of the vessel, International Bunkering had confirmed that a ransom had been offered, although he was unaware of the progress of negotiations.
The Al Nisr Al Saudi, which has a deadweight of 5,136 tonnes, was returning to Jeddah after delivering its cargo to Japan. Among its 14-strong crew are a Greek master and a number of Sri Lankan sailors.
The European naval force confirmed on Wednesday that the vessel had been seized outside the Internationally Recognised Transit Corridor (IRTC) and taken to the pirate stronghold of Garacad, on the Somali coast.
In December 2008, representatives of Saudi Aramco subsidiary Vela International struck a deal with Somali pirates to release the Sirius Star supertanker, which was carrying $100m worth of oil, in what was the world’s biggest ship hijacking.
Lanka hold talks with Saudi Arabia on hijacked Lankan seamen (Sri Lanka Guardian)
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that it is holding discussions with diplomatic quarters in Saudi Arabia on securing the release of the Sri Lankan crew members on board a Saudi ship which has been hijacked by Somali pirates.
A ministry spokesman said the Sri Lankan Consular General’s office in Jeddah has been instructed to hold discussions with the relevant shipping company and furnish the ministry with a report in that regard.
The ’Al Nisr Al Saudi’ was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden on Monday. The 14-member crew includes 13 Sri Lankans and one Greek.
The tanker was on its way from Japan to Jeddah when it was hijacked.
Jayantha Dissanayake, Sri Lankan High Commissioner in Kenya, speaking to Newsfirst said the vessel was now in the region of Garacad off the coast of Somalia.
Under the circumstances, the high commissioner has urged Sri Lankan nationals to refrain from seeking employment on ships that sail across Somali waters.
Pirates say they won’t harm crew by Mohammed Rasooldeen (ARABNEWS)
Efforts stepped up for release of hijacked ship
Somali pirates who hijacked the Saudi ship Al-Nisr Al-Saudi on Monday have said they will not harm the vessel’s crew, a Sri Lankan diplomat told Arab News on Friday.
“Al-Nisr Al-Saudi was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden on Monday with a 14-member crew aboard, which include 13 Sri Lankans and the ships’ Greek captain, Georgios Skalimis. The tanker, owned by International Bunkering Co. (IBCO), was on its way from Japan to Jeddah when it was hijacked. The hijackers have demanded a $20 million ransom. The ship is presently anchored on the coast of Somalia.
“We have held discussions with senior IBCO officials about the hijacked Saudi Arabian vessel and urged them to expedite the release of the 13 Sri Lankan crew members,” said Sri Lankan Consul General Sabarullah Khan.
IBCO is working with its insurer, the Saudi IACI Cooperative Insurance Company, to facilitate negotiations with the pirates. Khan added that the shipping company had established contact with the pirates through satellite communication and that they had given reassurances that they would not harm the Sri Lankan crew. London-based Protection and Indemnity Club (P&I) is coordinating action between the pirates and the insurance company, Khan said.
The company that owns and operates the bunker barge hijacked by Somali pirates on Monday has intensified efforts to secure its release. International Bunkering Company Ltd. (IBCO) is working with its insurer, the Saudi IACI Cooperative Insurance Company (SALAMA), to facilitate negotiations with the pirates. However, senior Sri Lankan officials have expressed concerns over the fate of 13 Sri Lankan crew members held hostage on board the ill-fated ship, which was hijacked as it sailed through the Gulf of Aden.
Sri Lankan Consul General Sabarullah Khan said that his government has instructed him to do everything possible to save the crew members.
Khan said he has received the list of the Sri Lankan crew members from the company and the Jeddah-based consulate was also coordinating with the Kenya-based mission and IBCO. The consulate will shortly provide a report to Colombo, he added.
Khan said the pirates have provided assurances that they will not harm the crew members. “We are concerned about our workers an we are ready to cooperate with all parties to settle the matter as early as possible,” said Sarath Kumara, minister at the Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh on Thursday.
“The IBCO has already taken up the matter with the insurance company, while pirates are in touch with negotiators through their satellite phones from the east African coast,” senior IBCO official Munir Ahmed Gondal told Arab News on Wednesday. IBCO also clarified that the ship, called Al-Nisr Al-Saudi, was not an oil tanker, as the company is not involved in the crude business. It also said the barge was sailing from Yawatahama, Japan.
Sri Lankan High Commissioner in Kenya Jayantha Dissanayake said the vessel was now in the region of Garacad off the coast of Somalia. As a result of the incident, he has urged Sri Lankan nationals to refrain from seeking employment on ships that sail across Somali waters.
The island’s Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said he will continue to monitor the situation and take all necessary measures to expedite the release of the Sri Lankans through Sri Lankan missions in Saudi Arabia. The minister said his government has instructed him to do everything possible to save the crew.
“We are deeply concerned about our workers and we are ready to cooperate with all parties to settle the matter as quickly as possible.”
Last year, pirates seized the Saudi supertanker Sirius Star carrying $100 million in oil cargo.
In another incident, a Turkish vessel was about to be captured by pirates late last year. Thanks to the efforts of a Saudi patrolling team, the pirates were driven away and the vessel secured. Several such incidents of piracy have been reported from the Gulf of Aden, which has become an unsafe area to sail.
Encouraged by rising ransom payments, Somali pirates have stepped up attacks in recent months, making tens of millions of dollars by seizing vessels in the Indian Ocean and the busy Gulf of Aden shipping lanes.
Somali pirates are currently holding six hijacked ships and 132 sailors, including those aboard Al-Nisr Al-Saudi, according to the EU Naval Force. That figure may increase in coming months.
Somali pirates hijack ship owned by Saudi Arabia (Reuters)
Somali pirates hijacked a Saudi-owned ship in the Gulf of Aden early this week and said they had also seized a fishing vessel, in a sign the sea gangs are maintaining their lucrative business despite naval patrols.
Andrew Mwangura of the East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme said the Saudi-owned 5,136 deadweight tonne al Nisr al Saudi was seized on Monday and was now off the Somali coast.
Emboldened by rising ransom payments, Somali sea gangs have stepped up attacks in recent months, making tens of millions of dollars by seizing vessels in the Indian Ocean and the busy Gulf of Aden shipping lanes linking Europe to Asia.
Prior to the latest captures, at least six foreign vessels with 140 crew members were being held off the coast of the Horn of Africa nation. The biggest ransom so far is an estimated $7 million paid in January for a oil tanker laden with crude. An official at the company operating the vessel said hijackers were demanding $20 million to release the small empty fuel tanker, which had been returning from Japan to the Red Sea port of Jeddah, Al Arabiya television reported.
Mwangura said the ship had one Greek and 13 Sri Lankan crew.
Pirates said they had also seized a fishing vessel in the Indian Ocean, but no further details were immediately available.
Foreign navies have been deployed off the Gulf of Aden since the start of 2009, operating convoys and setting up safer transit corridors through the most dangerous waters.
But the armed pirate gangs also operate far out in the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean, dodging the warships by casting their nets as far south as the Seychelles. Even private yachts have been targets.
A Somali legislator urged community elders to press pirates who have held a British couple since October to free them.
Paul and Rachel Chandler, a retired couple from southeast England, were seized in the Indian Ocean aboard their 38-foot (12 metre) yacht soon after they left the Seychelles.
“The couple are elderly and infirm,” the deputy speaker of parliament Mohamed Omar Dalha said in Nairobi. “We are really touched by their plight.”
“We call upon our MPs, ministers, religious elders and traditional elders from the region where the pirates are holding them to seriously intervene and convince their captors to release the two on humanitarian grounds.”
Piracy has thrived off Somalia because of the lack of a stable central government since 1991. The chaos now is driven by a three-year-old insurgency bent on toppling the Western-backed administration, which controls only parts of the capital.
Many of the sea gangs also say they are acting as an informal coast guard by deterring the illegal dumping of toxic waste and unauthorised fishing in the tuna-rich waters.
The UN’s special envoy to Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, said piracy should be tackled by giving the government resources to improve security on land.
“We have anarchy, and everyone is trying to make money out of it,” he said in an interview late on Monday, adding that pirates were making more than $100 million a year.
Freed Greek-owned bulk carrier arrives in Salalah by Conrad Prabhu (OmanDailyObserver)
A Greek-owned freighter that was released by Somali pirates earlier this week arrived at the Port of Salalah yesterday on a roughly four-day stopover in the Sultanate. The Navios Apollon, a 52,000 DWT bulk carrier, was freed on February 27, just over two months after its seizure off the Seychelles in the Indian October on December 28, 2009. According to maritime officials, the Panama-flagged cargo ship sailed into Salalah on its own power and docked at the transhipment hub’s General Cargo Terminal yesterday morning. The vessel’s Greek captain and 18 Filipino sailors are said to be generally in good health and excellent spirits.
During its Oman stay, the bulker is due to receive fresh supplies of water and provisions for the next leg of its journey to Rozy on India’s west coast where it is due to discharge its cargo of rock phosphate. It was not immediately clear if a crew change was on the cards during the ship’s Salalah stopover.
Owned and operated by Navios Maritime Partners of Greece, the 190-metre-long Navios Apollon was captured by an armed band when it was en route from Tampa (USA) to Jamnagar on India’s Gujarat coast. As with a majority of seized ships, the Apollon’s release followed a ransom payout.
Salalah — the Sultanate’s transhipment hub overlooking the Indian Ocean — is typically the first port of call for newly freed ships seeking a safe haven after prolonged periods in captivity at the hands of Somali based pirate gangs.
The Navios Apollon is the second such vessel to call Salalah this year. Earlier in January, the Maltese-flagged cargo ship, MV Ariana, chose Salalah as its first port of call following its release after roughly seven months in captivity. Hijacked vessels that have made brief stopovers at Salalah, and sometimes even Muscat, during the past year include the German-owned cargo ship, MV Charelle, the chemical tanker Stolt Strength, CEC Future — a vessel operated by the Danish Clipper Elite Carrier, MV African Sanderling — a Panama-flagged bulk, the Turkish tanker MT Karagol, the Panama-flagged chemical tanker MT Action, and the Liberian flagged product tanker MV Biscaglia.
With the latest captures and releases now still at least 8 seized foreign vessels (10 sea-related hostage cases since yacht SY LYNN RIVAL was abandoned and taken by the British Navy) with a total of not less than 175 crew members (incl. 5 Filipinos on board of two vessels : two on board the Thai Union 3 and three on board the MV St. James Park ; as well as the British sailing couple) plus now the lorry crews held for an exchange with imprisoned pirates, are accounted for.