Sunday, April 26, 2009

Somali Pirates Seize Another Ship

Somali pirates seize another ship

08:44 26/04/2009

Somali pirates have seized a 31,000-tonne German grain carrier in the Gulf of Aden, a Kenyan maritime official said.

Pirates also released a Greek vessel after they were paid US$1.9 million in ransom, a pirate source said.

The Malta-flagged, German-owned MV Patriot belongs to Patriot Schiffahrts and is managed by Blumenthal JMK of Hamburg, Germany, said Andrew Mwangura, director of the Mombasa-based East African Seafarers Assistance Programme.

"I hear it was taken early this morning," he said. "It was hijacked in the eastern end of the Gulf of Aden."

The ship's 17 crew members are unhurt, Mwangura said.

The Foreign Ministry in Berlin could not confirm the German vessel had been seized but said it was investigating.

A pirate said his comrades had also released a Greek ship but he could not give its name. Pirates are holding three Greek ships.

"My friends have released the Greek ship after $1.9 million ransom was paid," said the pirate, identified only as Hussein. "My friends are now getting off the ship and it will soon sail away."

Earlier this month, a sea gang grabbed the Greek merchant marine, MV Irene E.M., with 22 Filipino crew members. They also seized the Greek-owned Nipayiya on March 25 about 725km from Somalia's south coast. The MV Saldanha, was captured on Feb 22.

Mwangura said he did not know what ship had been released.

Pirate attacks off the eastern African coast have escalated in the past few weeks despite the presence of a flotilla of foreign navy warships in the region.

Sea gangs are holding more than 250 hostages and have made millions of dollars through ransoms, driving up insurance costs. Some shipping lines now opt to use a longer and more expensive route around the Cape of Good Hope to avoid capture.

Hijackings rose nearly 200 per cent to 111 in 2008. So far this year, there have been about 40 incidents.

In the latest high-profile hijacking, pirates attacked a US ship, the Maersk Alabama, earlier in April.

Its crew of 20 fought back and the pirates were forced to flee with the ship's captain, Richard Phillips, in a lifeboat. After a standoff with the US Navy, Phillips was rescued and three pirates were shot dead by snipers.

The US action could force the gangs to take more drastic action, including executing some of their hostages, some analysts say.

The pirates have so far avoided deliberately harming captured crew members and in 2008 secured some US$100 million in ransom payments for crews and vessels.

The pirates have reinvested some of their takings in bigger weaponry and widened their reach to 800km from the Somali coast.

No comments: