SOMALIA – The past few weeks have seen some serious new developments in the lawless oceans off the coast. As well as the normal threats to, and seizures of, container and bulk freight vessels three Danish children and their parents are still being held captive after their abduction at sea whilst sailing in the Indian Ocean. Now some of the shipping industries biggest players are demanding action.
The Johansen family, taken on the 24th February and including three children aged from 12 to 16, have reportedly been transferred to a Pirate prison ship moored of the coast in Northern Somalia. The family yacht was seized just two days after the fateful attack by US forces which ended in the death of four American evangelists and the pirates responsible for this latest atrocity were quick to warn that a similar fate is in store for the five Danes if a rescue is attempted.
To complicate matters even further there has been much talk lately that some serious players have taken an interest in piracy which is being viewed as a growth industry with huge rewards for anyone wishing to participate. Reports from the country say pirates are being charged for use of the harbour at Xaraardheere by members of an extremist Islamic group, Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen, commonly known as al Shabaab, a group that has been linked to Al Qaeda and which is dedicated to overthrowing the Somali government.
It seems unlikely that a group which operates strictly under the confines of Sharia Law can justify taking payment from the lawless pirate gangs who do not hold any particular religious affiliations, indeed one report states the financial agreement between the two only came about after some pirate leaders were captured by the terrorist group and levered an agreement for release by agreeing to provide funds.
To combat the ever growing threat, this month has seen a campaign launched by some of the industries big players. The Save Our Seafarers campaign is supported by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), INTERTANKO the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners, the International Association of Dry Cargo Shipowners (Intercargo) and BIMCO, the Baltic and International Maritime Council.
By simply clicking HERE you can register your vote to support the campaign which demands that YOUR government acts to ensure crews are better protected from pirate activities simply by ensuring pirates are identified and acted against whilst also holding and prosecuting any captured, not something often done hitherto. Also that the sources of funds and support must be identified and criminalised.
In other pirate news in the past two weeks the 28th February saw the capture of a Panamanian flagged, Greek owned bulk cargo carrier MV Dover which was taken approximately 260 nautical miles North East of Salalah in the North Arabian Sea, together with her crew of twenty three. The ship was registered with the Maritime Security Centre – Horn of Africa (MSCHOA) and reporting to the UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) office in Dubai.
The MV Ems River, which was pirated on 27 December 2010, was released from pirate control on 1st March.The Antigua/Barbuda flagged and German owned vessel was on her way to San Nicolas, Greece from Jebel Ali in the UAE at the time of the attack and according to the owners of the vessel, all crew members are well and unharmed. It is not known if a ransom was paid as seems likely.
An unidentified merchant vessel harassed by a pirate whaler was rescued by EU Navfor forces. The FS Nivose fired ahead of the suspect vessel after a Maritime Patrol Reconnaissance Aircraft (MPRA) which is supplied by Luxembourg and based in the Seychelles, filmed the pirates throwing the tools of their trade overboard. Despite stopping and detaining the attackers they were released once again for lack of prima facie evidence. It exactly this type of case which so infuriates shipowners and their representative organisations.
On the morning of 9th March, marine authorities received a distress call from the MV Rak Afrikana stating that they were taking on large amounts of water due to what was described as a ‘hole in the hull’. The vessel had been released from pirate control only hours earlier.
The EU Navfor warship SPS Canarias was immediately sent to assist the stricken vessel and was later joined by the Italian warship ITS Zeffiro which arrived first and carried out the rescue operation. The master of the vessel stated that the ship would probably sink in about 5 hours. 25 crewmembers abandoned the Rak Afrikana and took to the lifeboats. The crew were rescued by Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat (RHIB) from the Italian warship shortly afterward.
The Rak Afrikana was pirated on the 11th April 2010. There is no information on the cause of the damage that led to the distress call. The rescued crew members are reported to be in satisfactory condition considering that they have been held captive for the last 332 days. It is believed the vessel, apparently released after a ransom payment, has subsequently sunk and some unconfirmed reports say one crew member died whilst held hostage.
Photo:- The Johansen family aboard their yacht.