Thursday, 27 July, 2017

Somali pirates suspected of first ship hijacking since 2012

Pirates hijack freighter off Somalia's coast officials Pirates hijack freighter off Somalia’s coast officials
Saul Franklin | 19 March, 2017, 00:14

However the Sri Lanka Ministry of Foreign Affairs said today that while the vessel had an eight member Sri Lankan crew, it was not registered under the Sri Lankan flag.

"The master confirmed that armed men were on board his ship and they were demanding a ransom for the ship's release", a statement said.

"The EU Naval Force has now passed the information regarding the incident to the ship's owners", it said. The fate of its eight crew members is not known. It said Somali pirates still have the ability and the will to restart attacks.

In August, the United Nations Security Council warned that even as foreign navies and some local pressure had reduced pirate attacks to just 15 in the previous year from their 2011 peak of 237, criminal networks remained intact.

Makalandawa says they fear for their relatives' lives.

Pirates have been around for thousands of years, but they became a global problem when the Somali Democratic Republic collapsed in 1991, according to Ohio State University.

"Foreign fishermen destroyed their livelihoods and deprived them of proper fishing", he said.

"They have been sailing through the ocean in search for a foreign ship ... and found this ship and boarded it", Salad Nur told the Associated Press.

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Interventions by regional naval forces that flooded into the area helped disrupt several hijack bids and secure the strategic trade route that leads through the Suez Canal and links the oilfields of the Middle East with European ports.

"Yesterday (Monday) afternoon, the ship reported that it was followed by two skiffs. After that, it went silent and the owner of the ship was not able to get into contact", he said.

The MT Aris 13 was travelling from Djibouti to Mogadishu on 13 March when, instead of giving the Somali coast a wide berth as advised, it took a short cut between the tip of the Horn of Africa and the Yemeni island of Socotra.

He said the amount of ransom to demand had not yet been decided.

"Usually pirates reinforce with guards from the shore and use the village to resupply", Steed said.

Acts of piracy off the Somali coast rose after 2005, costing shipping companies billions of dollars, but have declined in recent years due to beefed-up naval patrols and greater security aboard merchant ships.

Namali Makalandawa, the sister of the oil tanker's chief officer Premnath Ruwan Sampath, said families had tried to contact the shipping company's office in Dubai but their calls were not answered.

Since Somali piracy is largely a hijack-for-ransom business, it relies heavily on onshore support for infrastructure that provides food, water, fuel and the leafy narcotic khat to the militiamen who guard the hijacked ships throughout the ransom negotiation process.

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