Thursday, November 1, 2012

Pirates Captured as Attacks on Freight and Container Shipping Reduce (includes Video)

Vessel Blown Up by European Union Forces as Hostages Released on Opposite Coastline
Shipping News Feature

NIGERIA – SOMALIA – INDIAN OCEAN – It has been confirmed today that the 7 crew members of AHTS Bourbon Liberty 249 have been released after pirates boarded the vessel and abducted them on the 15th of October. The crew of six Russians and one Estonian are said to be ‘feeling well’ and will return to their own countries to be reunited with their family and friends after undergoing medical and psychological checks by the emergency unit in Nigeria provided by vessel owners, Paris-based offshore marine service providers Bourbon. Pirates and those opposed to conditions in the Niger Delta, which they blame entirely on foreign energy groups, often target smaller oil support vessels such as anchor handling tug supply vessels like Liberty 249, a contrast to the opposite African shoreline where container and bulk freight vessels are the favoured prey.

Both the Estonian and Russian Foreign Ministries also confirmed the hostages release with the Russian Ministry expressing appreciation to the Nigerian, French, Luxembourg and Estonian partners for their cooperation and effective coordinated action which resulted in a quick and safe rescue of those kidnapped. Bourbon and the forces involved have elected to make no comment as to the circumstances surrounding the hijack and kidnapping or the demands of the pirates or, as yet, details of the rescue. Speculation is of course that this was once again the work of MEND***.

On the 20th October, the EU Naval Force (EU Navfor) German frigate FGS Sachsen located and saved 20 Iranian sailors and detained seven suspected pirates after receiving a distress signal from a fishing vessel the previous day. Sachsen was dispatched immediately to the last known position 250 nautical miles north-east off the coast of Somalia.

On the day of the rescue, Sachsen located the dhow and established contact with the master of the vessel. Over the radio the master reported his vessel had been taken by force six days ago. He said that pirates were threatening the crew and agreed for a German boarding team to come aboard the dhow.

Seven suspected pirates were detained and several AK47 assault rifles as well as a rocket propelled grenade launcher (RPG) were confiscated, hardening the suspicion that the dhow has been pirated. The freed hostages have been provided with food and water as well as technical assistance to continue their journey.

This action denied the suspected pirates the use of the dhow as a potential mother ship and saved 20 Iranian sailors from what could be a prolonged captivity. EU Navfor undertakes all efforts to achieve a legal finish. This time a prosecution was not possible and as such the seven suspects held on FGS Sachsen were released which will no doubt once again enrage the shipping community and which still appears to be a perennial problem as we have seen so often before.

Following the successful capture of a pirate vessel by the EU Navfor flagship, ITS San Giusto, off the coast of Socotra as we reported early last month, the EU Navfor released a video of its capture of the pirate vessel.

***The MEND group (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) has often featured in our News coverage. To study the archive simply type Niger Delta into the News Search box at the head of any page.