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   Somali Marine & Coastal Monitor update april 16, 2010

Ecoterra international samedi 17 avril 2010

2010-04-16 * FRI * 23h59:24 UTC

Issue 363


The Indian-owned Dhow MSV VISV(A)KALYAN (VRL) (aka VISHVA KALYAN = Global Peace) was seized on March 26, 2010 after it had left Kismaayo harbour in Southern Somalia with an illegal consignment of charcoal. It was subsequently captured by a Somali gang of sea-shifta in the Kisimaayo channel. Reportedly, the owner of the vessel is Dubai (UAE) based.
The Indian flagged dhow VISHVAKALYAN was also used as a pirate mother ship. The dhow then was intercepted by NATO warship HMS CHATHAM in the area to the East of the Gulf of Aden. The British Royal Navy frigate, which is part of NATO’s counter piracy Operation Ocean Shield, spent three days shadowing the vessel, exerting pressure on the Somali pirates on board until the mother ship ran out of fuel and was forced to stop. Stricken and overwhelmed by the warship which closed to the point of bringing the mother ship alongside, the pirates were directed to leave the VISHVAKALYAN under the shadow of HMS CHATHAM’s close range weapons and Royal Marine marksmen. They then fled back to the Somali coast in a smaller skiff, leaving the dhow and her crew unharmed.
It is believed that the dhow had been used to mount an unsuccessful attack against at least one merchant ship over the proceeding days, before she was intercepted by HMS CHATHAM. In response to the night time attack on 6 Apr, the NATO warship diverted to the scene and launched her Lynx helicopter which quickly located the suspect dhow. HMS CHATHAM closed their position and this initial action was sufficient to ensure that the pirates could not continue with their mission.
As HMS CHATHAM approached, it became clear that the personnel on board were carrying a variety of weapons including Rocket Propelled Grenades and AK47 rifles. The action taken by the warship, her helicopter and fast boats with British Royal Marines embarked, over the three days, left the pirates no option but to comply with NATO’s demands and peacefully abandon the dhow.
The Master and fourteen other crew members of the VISHVAKALYAN were extremely relieved to be released and grateful to HMS CHATHAM, who provided them with medical assistance, water and fuel to allow them to proceed towards their next port.
Commander Simon Huntington, HMS CHATHAM’s Commanding Officer, said “We have actively disrupted a group of pirates who had hijacked this dhow, taking the crew hostage, and they were obviously intent on seizing a larger merchant vessel and its crew, for criminal means. I am extremely pleased that due to the actions of my Ship’s Company, HMS CHATHAM quickly found and intercepted them, forcing them to abort their mission ; but what is most rewarding for all of us involved in this operation, is that we have secured the release of this dhow and her crew unharmed and without the need for an escalation in violence.”
The case shows ones again that a determined "STAY-ON" policy without the use of force is the best method to solve such cases without escalation and without bloodshed. However, the captain and the load of the Indian vessel must be impounded immediately at the next port of call, because it carries contraband in form of charcoal, whose export from Somalia is strictly prohibited, since the illegal production of charcoal for export is the main reason for serious deforestation and the disastrous desertification of Somalia, and the captain gravely endangered the crew by sailing the vessel into the rebel-held port of Kisimaayo, which is not a port of entry for Somalia and under a blockade by the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia. The captain and vessel therefore operated as a blockade breaker and exported illegally banned charcoal.
The Indian Government had - based also on this case - in the meantime issued a strict directive, which prohibits Indian-flagged dhows to sail towards Somalia, and instructed the boats to stay to the North and East of a boundary line between Salalah in Oman and Malé in the Maldives. Certainly the right measure to stop that unscrupulous vesseel owners and corrupt smuggler-captains endanger their crews.


Obama’s Pirate Executive Order Sparks Concerns With Shipping Lines
Possibility of Ransom Payments Violating US Law
Late last night President Barak Obama signed an executive order that forbids American corporations and their overseas subsidiaries from having financial dealings with groups that “…directly or indirectly threaten the peace, security, or stability of Somalia.”
President Obama’s order specifically highlights the problems of piracy in the Indian Ocean, stating that : “I hereby determine…acts of piracy or armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia threaten the peace, security, or stability of Somalia. I…determine that…the making of donations…would seriously impair my ability to deal with the national emergency declared in this order, and I hereby prohibit such donations…” Though specifically aimed at certain individuals and groups, principally the Islamists and warlords fighting against the Somali government and African Union peacekeeping forces, the order has sparked concern amongst shipping lines that it could be construed as applicable to companies that pay ransoms to pirates who hijack their vessels, making them culpable.
Though there is some confusion, companies with US interests who are the victims of Somali piracy are now advised to consult with the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Treasury Department before making any payments to hijackers.
[N.B. : For the list of names on Obama’s exec-order see SMCM Issue No. 362 ou can access the OFAC list of Somali individuals added to the SDN list HERE]

Obama order may prohibit ransom payments to pirates (marinelog)
President Obama has issued an executive order that some commentators believe may prohibit shipowners from paying ransoms to pirates. In conjunction with the issue of the executive order, the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC) issued a list of Somali individuals and organizations that have been added to its SDN list. U.S. persons are prohibited from having any dealings with persons on the SDN list.

Security Group Shuns Somali Ransoms by NewsDesk (iWireNews)
Funding used to pay ransoms to Somali pirates operating in key transit waterways should be instead used for security details, contractors said.
U.S. President Barack Obama issued an executive order Tuesday that could prevent ship owners from paying ransoms to Somali pirates.
Obama, in the executive order, declared a national emergency to deal with the threat posed by those who have "directly or indirectly" supported Somali pirates.
Agbeli Ameko, a senior vice president of maritime defense company Marque Star, singled out ransom payments by ship owners as contributing to the threat.
"Ransom payments do feed the Somali pirates, supply them with more resources to strike again and affects both sovereign and commercial interests by indirectly funding rogue or terrorist activities around the globe," he said.
Ameko recommended the shipping industry focus on new methods to prohibit piracy and avoid ransom payments.
"Those funds could be more prudently employed by protecting maritime assets using services of Marque Star to create an envelope of safety preventing pirates from ever reaching the client’s ship," he said.


news from sea-jackings, abductions, newly attacked ships as well as seafarers and vessels in distress

Seajacked Cargo vessel arrived off the coast of Somalia (ecop-marine)
The St Vincent & Grenadines flagged, UAE owned cargo ship MV RAK AFRIKANA, arrived yesterday off the coast of Somalia in the vicinity of Harardheere, maritime observers had reported.
MV RAK AFRIKANA, previously reported hijacked on the morning of 11 April approximately 280 nautical miles west of Seychelles, has a crew of 26 from India, Pakistan and Tanzania.
EU NAVFOR meanwhile confirmed this today and continues to monitor the situation.

Sailors speak of ordeal at pirates’ hands by Praveen Menon (TheNational)
For six days the crewmen of MSV Al Kaderi feared a pirate attack as they sailed past Somalia. Just as the shore appeared on the horizon, the serenity of the sea was shattered by gunfire.
“We were not shocked. Just disappointed at our bad luck,” said Mohammed Shabbir, the helmsman of the dhow which was attacked by pirates as it sailed close to the notorious pirate port of Hobyo, Somalia late last month.
Attacks on dhows that travel the waters off Somalia are no longer a surprise for sailors. The Al Kaderi was one of eight dhows that were held by pirates there last month, their crews of nearly 100 men taken hostage.
The crew of the Al Kaderi, which finally reached the safety of the Sharjah Creek last week, told of their ordeal after being held for two days.
The 11-member Indian crew was attacked by pirates on three skiffs. The sailors said 10 heavily armed pirates jumped on board and took control of their ship.
“We had to stop the dhow and let them on board. They threatened us by firing in the air but they would kill us without any hesitation if we did not stop,” Mr Shabbir said. The crew showed where a bullet shattered the window of a cabin where a sailor was resting. A bullet is still lodged in the ceiling of the cabin.
“A sailor was sitting right beside where the bullet hit. He could have died but they don’t care about this,” Mr Shabbir said.
The pirates had one boat loaded with ammunition which they towed with the dhow. The sailors said the pirates all carried machine guns and hand-held rocket launchers. “They started ordering us to make all kinds of food as if this were a restaurant,” said Siddique Mohammed, the captain of the ship. “They were constantly eating all along. It appeared to us that they had not eaten for days.”
While the rest of the crew was locked inside a cabin, only the captain and helmsman were allowed out to direct the ship.
“A route was given to us and we were ordered to follow it. The gun was constantly pointed at our heads. They appeared well co-ordinated and experienced in handling such hostage situations,” the captain said. “They kept us until all the food was finished. They finished the chicken, meat and milk. Also, the fuel tank was empty. Finally they left us after they took all our money and clothes. We were left with nothing.”
The owner of the dhow, Ghani Khanani, said his business lost electronic equipment worth at least Dh15,000 (US$4,083), but more importantly it lost fuel and time. “It’s affecting business in both countries. Most often we transport food items like flour, sugar, oil and other things. Prices for these commodities shoot up in Somalia if we do not get there on time,” Mr Khanani said.
Dhows such as Al Kaderi are not hijacked for their cargo but are used to launch attacks on bigger ships further from the shore.
With the Gulf of Aden one of the world’s most heavily patrolled waterways, Somali pirates have pushed further into the Indian Ocean, using “mother ships” as bases to strike at more lucrative targets. Most dhows are released after about 10 days, when fuel and food run out.
Theodore Karasik, the head of research at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said : “This is a growing trend and it shows that there’s a change of tactic among the pirates."
This new phenomenon of dhow hijackings makes the problem of piracy more difficult to tackle, he said. “They can use these dhows as camouflage in order to spoof the patrolling navies,” he said.
The targeting of the small wooden vessels has a significant impact in Somalia which relies on the dhows for imports.
Much of the country’s commercially imported grain comes by sea from the Gulf, according to the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit for Somalia, which is part of the United Nations. Any disruption of the commercial sea routes has the biggest impact on the poor, said Grainne Maloney, the interim chief technical adviser at the unit. Abdi Gulvad, who represents the Somali importers in Dubai, said that by attacking the dhows, the pirates are biting the hand that feeds them. “No one can understand why they are attacking the dhows that bring us food. If the dhows don’t come, people will die.”
Boat owners say they have no choice but to sail to Somalia as it is one of the few markets where their services are still in demand. Jagdip Ayachi, the owner of MSV Sea Queen which was hijacked late last month, said traditional trade routes for carrying dates between Iraq and India had dried up as cargo ships grab their business.
Export bans on flour and sugar from India also have hurt their trade, he said. “At the moment Somalia is very important for us because there is business there.”
The Indian Navy has banned dhows from the waters around Somalia and Yemen, but the boats have resumed sailing after recently hijacked vessels were released.
[N.B. : The Indian-flagged dhows MSV Al Kaderi and MSV SEA QUEEN arrived in the UAE with contraband in form of illegal charcoal from Somalia. The fact that captains, vessels and cargo were not immediately impounded by the UAE authorities for smuggling and endangering seafarers, shows the consent of the UAE in illegal activities, to further depleat Somalia and to actually foster illegal activities in connection with Somalia. This is a great shame for the UAE leadership. The mindset of the owners of these dhows and their cruel captains actually is in no way different or less criminal than that of the Somali pirates : Business by all means - and it doesn’t matter if it is criminal. However, legal preparations are now underway to have these dhows immediately arrested as soon they appear again in Somalia. They broke the blockade for rebel-held Kismaayo harbour and smuggled illegal charcoal from Somalia, thereby financing and aiding the Al-Shabaab, listed as terrorist organization by many states and named with the U.S. Executive Order as well as on the wanted list of the UN Security Council Committee. Despite being denied by the UAE leadership, analysts and insiders say that the United Arab Emirates are the key hub in the piracy around Somalia - for ransom payments, secret transfers of pirate money as well as for investment of piracy proceeds - much more than any other country. And the flag-state India would be well advised to withdraw her flag from these vessels immediately.]

Hijacked Indian vessels traced in Seychelles (ANI)
One out of the total eight boats that were kidnapped by Somali pirates was on Tuesday reportedly traced near the Seychelles port after the Kenyan Navy established communication with the crew.
There are reports that the authorities are giving indications that the other vessels have also been spotted in Seychelles.
Somali pirates had kidnapped the sailors along with 120 other Indians when they were sailing from Somalia to Dubai.
The sailors, who belong to Gujarat’s Saurashtra and Kutch regions had anchored last in the rebel territory of Kismayo in Somalia where they loaded cargo into their boats. But soon after, they were taken as hostages.
The pirates have, however, till now not demanded any ransom.
There are reports that on account of the current hijacking, patrolling has been intensified following naval deployment in the Gulf of Aden and Seychelles.
Somali pirates had earlier also targeted many Indian ships and taken crew as hostages.
Armed pirates had on December 23, 2009 attacked the Indian ship M T Agrasen, just 300 nautical miles off the coast of Maharashtra. The forty-one crew were, however, able to thwart the siege.
A similar incident took place on December 15 last year, when the pirates seized the Indian vessel Laxmi Sagar off the Somalian coast and kept ten members hostage.



With the latest captures and releases now still at least 19 seized foreign vessels (21 sea-related hostage cases since yacht SY LYNN RIVAL was abandoned and taken by the British Navy) with a total of not less than 304 crew members (incl. the British sailing couple) plus at least 9 crew of the lorries held for an exchange with imprisoned pirates, are accounted for.


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