EU monitoring hijacked vessel off Somalia

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The European Union Naval Force (EU NavFor) is closely monitoring the hijacked Maltese-flagged merchant vessel Ruen, which remains off the Somali coast.

In a statement, EU NavFor said the MV Ruen left the port of Gwangyang (South Korea) with a cargo of metals, and was hijacked on the morning of 14 December, as confirmed by its captain, and by the alert that was sent to the Operation Atalanta Joint Operation Centre. Right after, the EU Navfor Flagship ESPS Victoria was directed to rapidly close to the Ruen to gather more information and evaluate further actions, in coordination with the Somali local authorities and other security partners in the region.

Demands by the hijackers remain unknown.

During the early hours of 15 December, an Indian maritime patrol aircraft spotted the merchant ship, establishing radio communications with the crew. According to the information received, the 18 crewmembers were fine, locked up in the citadel. Hours later, the pirates managed to break into the citadel and extracted the crew.

In the early hours of 16 December, the Japanese Navy ship Akebono, under the Combined Maritime Forces (Combined Task Force 151) command, and the Indian Navy ship Kochi arrived in the vicinity of the hijacked ship, joining ESPS Victoria. Since then, continuous exchanges of information and coordination efforts have been performed regularly, the EU NavFor said. Key to situational awareness has been the EU NavFor ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle, based on ESPS Victoria, which continues to punctually collect data from the merchant vessel.

In the early morning of the 18th, a member of the crew of the MV Ruen was evacuated to the INS Kochi, for medical care. The medical team on board the ESPS Victoria remains available, in case its support will be necessary.

The ESPS Victoria has been able to continuously track the Ruen, even inside the Somalia Territorial Waters, thanks to an ad-hoc permission granted by the Federal Government of Somalia. However, it temporarily left the area for logistic reasons, in the afternoon of 19 December.

“Currently, the coordination among partners, including the Somali local authorities, is smooth and efficient, and it keeps the merchant ship continuously monitored,” EU NavFor said.