Pirates seize ship and use it for further attacks; Libyan ship hijacked


Somali pirates hijacked a ship off the East African coast on Wednesday and are using it as a mother ship from which to attack other vessels.

The European Union’s Navfor anti-piracy task force said yesterday that between 30 and 50 pirates had captured the Indonesian flagged MV Sinar Kudus in the Arabian Sea and then used it to try and hijack the Liberian flagged cargo vessel Emperor nearby. However, private security on board the ship repelled the attack after an exchange of fire.

Meanwhile, pirates released the Panama flagged chemical tanker MV Hannibal II after four months. The 30 crewmembers on board were ‘safe and in good health,’ according to EU Navfor. In December last year one of the crew being held hostage was thought to have appendicitis and the pirates allowed a German medical team, with assistance from the EU Navfor, to evacuate the patient.

The Hannibal II was released after US$2 million ransom was paid, Tunisia’s transport ministry said yesterday. Most of the crew on board are Tunisian. The vessel is currently on its way to Djibouti in the Red Sea. “Negotiations have not been easy,” said Farid Abbas, owner of Gabes Marine Tankers (GMT), which owns the vessel.

The 24 000 tonne chemical tanker was carrying vegetable oil from Malaysia to Suez in Egypt when it was attacked and boarded by pirates some east of the Horn of Africa on November 11, AFP reports.

In a separate incident, a Libyan ship was hijacked in the Mediterranean. GNMTC, a Libyan owned shipping line, said its Anwaar Afriqya tanker with 22 crew on board was hijacked by an armed group and diverted to the port of Tobruk near the Egyptian border. GNMTC believes the hijackers are Libyan rebels opposed to Muammar Ghadafi. The Anwaar Afriqya was carrying 23 800 tons of petrol from Greece.
“This piracy operation must have been planned with the assistance of high technology and sophisticated positioning equipment plus vessel departure and loading information,” GNMTC said in its statement.

Pirates are holding roughly 30 ships and 600 crew hostage. According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), there have been five attempted hijackings off the coast of Somalia in the past week.