Today, 08. April 2011, 23h30 UTC, at least 54 foreign vessels plus two barges are kept in Somali hands against the will of their owners, while at least 846 hostages or captives - including a South-African yachting couple as well as a Danish yacht-family with three children and two friends - suffer to be released.
Somali Pirates seize German cargo ship off Oman (ecop-marine)
Pirates have sea-jacked, just 35 nautical miles from the coast of Oman near Masirah Island, the German-owned general cargo vessel MV SUSAN K.
At 02h34 UTC (5h34 Local Time) on the morning of 08. April 2011 the Antigua & Barbuda flagged merchant vessel came under attack in position Latitude 18 25N Longitude 057 27E, NATO reported and stated shortly thereafter that the vessel was actually pirated by a gang of Somali sea-shifta which had used the dhow Al Yasin as their launch.
The MV SUSAN K was en route from Mumbai (India) to Port Sudan (North-Sudan) when it was attacked around 200 nautical miles northeast of Salalah, Oman and boarded by at least 10 pirates, the EU anti-piracy mission Atalanta said in a statement issued by EUNAVFOR. "Exact details of the attack are not known at this time," EUNAVFOR added and admitted that they had also no further information about the condition of the vessel’s crew.
(IMO 9344370) and her crew of ten seamen.
As registered owner of the 4,464 dwt MV SUSAN K is only listed with the entry "SONJA" and an address c/o NIMMRICH & PRAHM BEREEDERUNG GMBH & CO. KG, a shipping company from Leer in Germany. "Sonja" was also the launch-name and the former name of this vessel. But a vessel can hardly own herself, so it is assumed that the name of the "owner" stands for one of the three shareholders.
The vessel has an insurance cover from the North of England P&I Association, but the crew is not covered by an ITF agreement because the previous one with.Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft (ver.di) expired while the vessel was under Marlow Navigation Co Ltd.
The crew of the vessel has six Filipinos and four Ukrainians listed. For purposes of naval guarding and advise, the MV SUSAN K was registered with the maritime security centre [MSC(HOA)], and was reporting to the British Maritime Transport Organization (UKMTO), bot stationed in the region.
MSV AL YASIN : Seized March 27, 2011. The Indian-owned vessel was captured in position 1533N and 05542E. Details on crew etc. were not yet available. The motorized sailing dhow was then used to sea-jack MV SUSAN K and allegedly all pirates left the vessel, but official confirmation is awaited that she is free.
SUPERTANKER FREED FROM SOMALIA (ecop-marine)
A Somali pirate gang has released today the Greek supertanker VLCC IRENE SL after receiving a larger ransom. The 25 men crew is all right, given the circumstances, the captain could report shortly after the vessel sailed free. The crude carrier is now underway towards South Africa and most likely will change the crew at the port of Durban.
Reportedly too many sidelines made the negotiations for the release difficult in the last moment, but dedicated work of the crisis team achieved the release in just under two month. A time span those hostage crews, who still have to live under horrible conditions now for over one year - like on MV ICEBERG 1 - can only dream of.
VLCC IRENE SL : Seized February 9,2011. The Greek flagged and owned VLCC IRENE SL (IMO 9285823) with a dead weight of 319,247 tonnes was attacked and pirated at 09h26 UTC (12h26 local time) on 9 February in position Latitude : 21°27N and Longitude : 063°18E - just 225nm out from Ras al Hadd (Oman) and 360nm off Okha (India) in the Northern Arabian Sea. The area is considered a high surveillance and high security zone at the entrance to the Gulf of Oman, which leads to the Persian Gulf. At first the Piraeus-based shipping company First Navigation Special Maritime Enterprises just confirmed its Very Large Crude Carrier had been attacked by pirates, but had no further comment.
"This morning the vessel was attacked by armed men," the tanker’s Greece-based manager Enesel said then immediately thereafter in a statement. "For the moment there is no communication with the vessel."
Commander Susie Thomson, spokeswoman for the multinational Combined Maritime Forces apparently fighting piracy in the area, said the tanker was hijacked 220 nautical miles off Oman and was likely attacked by Somali pirates. "We can only speculate as to where the ship is being taken," she told Reuters and stated to AFP more importantly : "We have no reports of casualties."
The MV IRENE SL was not registered with MSC(HOA), but was reporting to UKMTO, EU NAVFOR said later, confirming the capture of the supertanker. The attack had caught the European navies somehow flatfooted, who only could state that the attack happened "around 10h00 UTC" and "approximately 350 nautical miles South East of Muscat."
Handy Shipping reported that there was also some confusion as to the exact details of the ship’s route. According to media reports from the owner the Greek owned vessel was en route from the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Mexico with a cargo of crude oil with an approximate value of $200 million, while EU NAVFOR’s Operation Atalanta, the European Union security force charged with protection of freight and passenger vessels in the region, stated she was heading for Fujairah from the Suez Canal, seemingly the opposite direction.
Meanwhile it seems to have been clarified that the tanker is full of oil and was heading for the U.S.A.
With FIRST NAVIGATION ENE named as registered owner, the VLCC IRENE SL is owner-managed by ENESEL SA and operated by Enesel Shipping - all of Athens, Greece. Enesel S.A. with a company history of over 150 years currently manages a modern and diverse fleet of five tankers - three VLCC and two aframax - and three supramax bulk carriers and also has three suezmax tankers on order.
The SVXS Crude Oil supertanker is insured by the UK P&I Club but unfortunately there seems to be no ITF agreement for the crew, which has 25 seafarers - with seventeen Filipinos, seven Greeks and one Georgian national on board.
The 333-metre very large crude carrier, was carrying about 2 million barrels of crude oil, estimated by Joe Angelo, managing director of INTERTANKO, who spoke to Reuters, to be nearly 20 percent of the daily U.S. crude imports. The cargo alone has a value of around $200 million worth of Kuwaiti crude oil, which is said to be 270,000 metric tons or over 1.9 million barrels.
While the insurance industry is making hundreds of millions and seaborne gangs from Somalia are making tens of millions of dollars in ransoms, and despite costing taxpayers billions of dollars for the navies, the international armada of warships sent to the region has simply failed to contain piracy in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. Politicians and the industries seem still not to understand that Somali piracy will only end, once serious and tangible development along the coastal communities sets in - areas which have been neglected by the so called international community for decades, while regional proxy-wars are staged and played.
When INTERTANKO, the association whose members own the majority of the world’s tanker fleet, said today the hijacking of the VLCC IRENE SL marked "a significant shift in the impact of the piracy crisis in the Indian Ocean", this must be seen as a flawed statement since other giant oil tankers like the VLCC SIRIUS STAR, VLCC Maran Centaurus and the VLCC SAMHO DREAM had been captured earlier and released against likewise gigantic sums of ransom.
And while INTERTANKO spokesperson Joe Angelo told Reuters today : "The piracy situation is now spinning out of control into the entire Indian Ocean," it must be noticed that he apparently woke up late, since ECOTERRA Intl. and the East African Seafarers Assistance programme as well as ECOP-Marine had predicted this and persistently warned since over three years. ECOTERRA Intl. had foreseen such already in 1994 in a briefing to Admiral Howe, noting already back then the possible disastrous developments if no help would come forward to develop the Somali coastal regions. But while everybody was busy to newly combine naval forces, to invent new deterrents against pirates or to write reports with false statistics, the people in Somalia continued to die, because the root causes of their problems, which also are the main root causes of piracy, were not addressed.
To repeat : The root-causes are the abhorrent poverty, hunger and death in a Somalia, which is kept in turmoil by an UN-masked, ill-conceived international scheme while further reasons are to be found in the greed of those who profit from the piracy menace, many of them in plush offices far off from Somalia.
What is very astonishing in this case is the fact that already on 02.02.2011 at 08h30 UTC in Posn : 20:16N – 063:36E, i.e. 225nm ESE of Ras al Hadd, Oman, about eight pirates in two skiffs and armed with RPG and automatic weapons chased and fired already upon a tanker underway. That is nearly the exact location where the Greek supertanker was taken just five days later. In the first case on that spot the tanker raised alarm, increased speed and contacted a warship for assistance. The pirates in the two skiffs kept firing with automatic weapons. When the warship arrived at the location the skiffs stopped chasing the tanker and moved away. A helicopter from a warship arrived at the location and circled the tanker. The helicopter contacted the pirates by VHF radio and ordered them to surrender their weapons. The pirates replied that they would kill the Iraqi and Pakistani hostages held on board the mother ship, if the warships attacked the skiffs. While it must be respected that for humanitarian reasons and to safe the life of the hostages the navies didn’t go further, it can not be understood that they didn’t keep the pirate’s launch on a leach and close observation. How five days later at the almost same location a supertanker can be captured, can only be explained with naval neglect, carelessness and uncoordinated operations. There is presently no communication since the initial radio call from the VLCC IRENE SL reporting the attack to another vessel in the area and no information regarding the condition of the crew has transpired, while the huge tanker is commandeered towards Somalia.
"The only thing that has changed is its position, and at 0400 Zulu (UTC/GMT) ... it was 150 nautical miles (277 kilometres) southeast of the Omani coast, heading toward the Somali coast," a spokeswoman for the Bahrain-based international naval force told AFP by telephone.
"It’s potentially a floating disaster in the making," a spokesperson from ECOTERRA Intl. said and added : "If anything would happen with the vessel it would be the biggest oil disaster mankind has seen in the Indian Ocean - an area, where coastal states have no means to combat any such gigantic oil spill." "It’s a good catch and there must be about 30 pirates on board," Abdi Yare told AFP. Several small boats have left Hobyo to escort the supertanker in towards shore, other pirates in Hobyo said.
But information from the ground says that the vessel is now expected in Ceel Dhanane and not Hobyo.
Other reports stated the oil tanker was spotted in position 16 19 N and 058 49 E on Feb 10 2011 and that the pirates had immediately started to use the supertanker as a pirate ship to attack other vessels.
At present the VLCC IRENE SL is again away from the Somali coast, acting as extremely dangerous pirate launch.
The gigantic oil tanker was observed at 08h17 UTC on 13. March 2011 in position Latitude : 11 55N Longitude : 058 39E travelling 071 degrees at 12 kts. On 18 March the tanker was observed at 17h36 UTC in position 13 01N and 055 18E being used as piracy launch.
On or around 19. March 2011 the pirates on VLCC IRENE SL contacted a navy ship and communicated that they had a severely wounded pirate on board. The navy ship offered help, but the pirate died on the operation table. The body of the pirate was then exchanged for 10 Indonesian sailors from FV JIH CHUN TSAI 68 and 3 Yemeni seamen from seajacked Yemeni dhow Al WA’ ALA.
On 20. March at 12h56 UTC she was in position 06 54N and 049 26E. On 21. March at 08h04 UTC she was observed in postion 06 54N and 049 25E going towards Hobyo. The owners held contact with the ship, which together with the crew was at last held off Garacad at the North-Eastern Indian Ocean coast of Somalia.
TWO IRANIAN FISHING VESSELS CONSIDERED FREE (ecop-marine)
Though a final confirmation from the Government of the Islamic Repubkic of Iran has not yet been received, we consider the FV AL FAHAD as the being the FV FEDAH or FEDDAH, which the Dutch Navy freed over the last weekend. Though the Dutch Navy didn’t make a clear statement and came under heavy criticism for just dumping two Somalis they had killed in the liberation of another Iranian vessel into the water, other naval sources are also of the opinion that FV AL FAHAD was the Iranian ship released. She was sea-jacked in last years October. All 16 seafarers of the crew have reportedly survived the hostage ordeal as well as the naval attack and are presumedly on their way home.
FV AL FAHAD : Seized October 11, 2010. Many more Iranian fishing vessel were over time actually held by Somali gangs than listed, since their cases and the fate of their sailors are in most cases not officially reported - neither by Iran nor the Western navies.
Sources with detailed knowledge from Iran stated after the release of one Iranian fishing vessel without ransom but actually a reward paid to their captain for good assistance during piracy operations of other vessels at the end of October 2010, that at least one other Iranian fishing vessels is held at present near Garacad. How many were seized for illegal fishing in Somali waters or how many were sea-jacked just to use them as piracy launch or to press ransom could so far not clearly be established. One Indian Navy vessel not involved in anti-piracy operations received a distress call from a merchant vessel pointing out it had spotted pirate skiffs with the Al-Fahad. The naval vessel on research mission intercepted on 10. December 2010.
"Six skiffs, with outboard motors, an AK-47 with ammunition, gas cylinders and fuel was found on board the dhow after it was intercepted... the pirate boat was then disabled," said an officer. Indian naval sources maintained that the Dhow had not been sunk.
According to those Indian naval sources there were 31 people on board. Unfortunately the Indian navy ship must not have realized that this was a sea-jacked vessel and let the Somalis and allegedly Yemeni men on board sail away after they destroyed the so called pirate-paraphernalia.
It also becomes obvious that crews collaborate with pirates to use their ships as transporters, pirate launches or even as attack vessels.
Allegedly the vessel flies now a flag from Yemen and Indian naval sources maintain the vessel was not sunk.
Though some naval sources in the region doubt the Indian report, the vessel therefore has to be kept on the list of sea-jacked ships.
Naval sources now said that the "liberated" Iranian fishing vessel they earlier called 16 sailors went home.
SECOND IRANIAN VESSEL
One other Iranian vessel, a motorized dhow with the registration number 4/3739 was set free on 01. April 2011 by the Dutch navy with two Somalis being killed and five wounded. The identity of the vessel could now be confirmed. The vessel was badly shot up by the Dutch navy and required repairs in order to then sail. The Dutch navy had in this case come under serious criticism for just dumping the bodies of the two killed Somalis into the sea. The Somali government has launched an investigation, but it is not known if this act of their navy will also come under scrutiny from the Government of the Netherlands.
©2011 - ecoterra / ecop-marine