Somali pirates hijack British-owned ship

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Somali pirates have this morning seized a British-owned ship operated by an Italian company after taking three other ships over the weekend, a maritime official says.
A Taiwanese fishing vessel could also have been taken near the Seychelles, he added.
“A 32 000-tonne bulker was seized early this morning. It is UK-owned but operated by Italians. The crew is mixed but we are not sure of their nationalities,” said Andrew Mwangura of the Mombasa-based East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme.
The British vessel was named as the Malaspina Castle, Reuters reports.
“I hear they have also captured a Taiwanese fishing vessel near the Seychelles,” he told Reuters.
Pirates also seized a French yacht, a Yemeni tug and the Hansa Stavanger, a 20 000-tonne German container vessel, over the weekend, despite the presence of foreign warships that have been sent to the region to deter the pirates.
Reuters says the Hansa Stavanger was taken on Saturday some 400 nautical miles (740 km) off the southern Somali port of Kismayu, between the Seychelles and Kenya.
“We believe the German ship has 24 crew on board. We’re trying to establish their identities and the name of the vessel,” Mwangura told Reuters.
The German Foreign Ministry said it was seeking “concrete evidence” that a German-flagged vessel had been captured.
“The Federal Government is dealing with the case, and all the appropriate public authorities are participating intensively,” a spokeswoman said.
Piracy now in SADC waters
Somali pirates seized two European-owned tankers late last month. Last week, the Seychelles military deployed security forces on its outer islands after the pirates hijacked a second vessel flying the Indian Ocean nation’s flag.
Pirates hijacked the oceanographic research cruiser Indian Ocean Explorer last week near Seychelles’ island of Assumption with seven locals on board. Several weeks ago, pirates seized the yacht Serenity with three people on board.
“We have doubled the strength of our forces there and given the coastguards the necessary instructions. Our forces are ready for any eventualities,” army chief Brigadier Leopold Payet said
last Thursday.
The Seychelles, a former member of the Southern African Development Community, covers more than 1.3 million square km (500,000 square miles) of the Western Indian Ocean although total land area is 445 square km.
The pirates typically use speed boats launched from “mother ships”. They then take captured vessels to remote coastal village bases in Somalia, where they have usually treat their hostages well in anticipation of a sizeable ransom payment.
In January, Somali gunmen freed the Sirius Star — a Saudi supertanker loaded with $100 million worth of crude oil — and its 25 crew after US$3 million was parachuted onto its deck.
Last September, they also grabbed world headlines by seizing a Ukrainian cargo ship carrying 33 Soviet-era T-72 tanks. It was released in February, reportedly for a US$3.2 million ransom.
The pirates say the arrival of high-tech foreign warships in the waters off their country has made their work more dangerous.
One gang member, who asked not to be named, told Reuters in the northern port of Bosasso that he had been part of an aborted attack on another large commercial vessel late on Saturday.
“We opened fire on a ship near the Gulf of Aden, but our ladder was too short to climb up,” he said. “It escaped at high speed. We were nine pirates in two speed boats and immediately we came back. We feared attacks by the warships.”