Pirates have fired on – and damaged – a Liberian-regstered Safmarine container ship and have added three African-flagged ships to their bag.
The sea robbers also attacked a second US-flagged cargo ship off the coast of Somalia with rockets and automatic weapons yesterday but failed to board the craft, the ship’s owner and the US military say.
The crew of the US-flagged Liberty Sun is unharmed, but the vessel suffered damage, according to a statement from Liberty Maritime Corp of Lake Success, New York.
The ship immediately requested help from the US Navy, which sent forces, the statement said.
“We are grateful and pleased that no one was injured and the crew and the ship are safe,” it said.
It was the second attack in a week on a US-flagged ship in the region, Reuters reports
On Sunday, US snipers killed three Somali pirates and freed the American ship captain they had been holding hostage for five days.
Liberty Maritime said the pirates fired rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons at the vessel, which was carrying US food aid for African nations to Mombasa, Kenya, from Houston, it said.
A US military official said the Liberty Sun was attacked at about 1530 GMT on Tuesday.
“The USS Bainbridge was directed to turn around and assist and went to help,” the official said.
The pirates had already gone when the vessel arrived three hours later, the official said on condition of anonymity.
The Bainbridge was the same ship that helped rescue cargo ship captain Richard Phillips on Sunday.
Heavily armed pirates from lawless Somalia have been increasingly striking the busy Indian Ocean shipping lanes and strategic Gulf of Aden, capturing dozens of vessels, hundreds of hostages and making off with millions of dollars in ransoms.
Earlier on Tuesday, Somali pirates hijacked two more cargo vessels and opened fire on a third in attacks that were a clear sign pirate gangs have not been deterred by two raids in recent days in which US and French Special Forces killed five pirates.
Attack on Safmarine
Lloyd`s List reports
ten pirates in three skiffs are reported to have fired on the 22 000mt containership Safmarine Asia. The ship was attacked at 1300 local time yesterday. The Liberian-flagged vessel was able to escape the pirates and there are no reports of any injuries to the crew. The vessel, owned by Eastwood Maritime, but chartered by Safmarine operates a feeder service between Tanzania and Oman.
Safmarine used to be South African owned and at the time its ships flew the SA flag. It is now part of the Maersk group and headquartered in Antwerp, Belgium.
The latest seizures include the Lebanese-owned but Togo-flagged general cargo ship Sea Horse, the Greek-managed bulk carrier Irene EM and two Egyptian fishing boats. Maritime officials said the Irene EM carries 21 to 23 Filipino crew and Egyptian officials report 36 fishermen, mostly Egyptians, on the two boats.
“The pirates are going out in full force,” said Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau`s piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur.
With the increasing number of attacks across such a wide area, even with a hefty international naval presence, not all hijackings can be prevented, Choong says.
Lloyd`s List adds that the killing of the five pirates has evidently done little to deter them. In total, 10 vessels have been hijacked since 4 April with pirates apparently capitalising on favourable weather.