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Friday June 17, 2011
Somalia Report maintains an extensive search-and-rescue database on hijacked ships, kidnapped crews and land-based hostages. In an effort to clarify the often confusing and deliberately misleading information communicated by pirates, we publish this weekly update.
At least 19 ships (not including the Danish yacht in the list of vessels held, below) and an estimated 405 seafarers remain in the hands of pirates. 41 of these hostages, including the Danish hostages and crew from the MV Asphalt Venture and MV Orna, are being held on land or on board other vessels.
In 2011 so far, known ransom payments amount to $73 million for the release of 16 ships. Another four vessels were released without any estimate being given for ransom payment. Given that the average payment is around $4.5 million, another $18 million could easily be added to the estimated known ransoms paid. Many other vessels were released without ransom or freed by foreign navies.
Since our last report, there has been a splurge of releases and a dollop of drama, with a fire on the MV Orna forcing pirates to evacuate the hostages and EU NAVFOR destroying two skiffs in tow behind a mothership.
The ones that got away
The MV Zirku, MV Suez and MV Susan K have all escaped their pirate bondage, for an estimated total ransom of $8.6 million.
The case of the MV Suez is particularly interesting, given that the money originally intended for the vessel (and for the MV Yuan Xiang, totalling $3.6 million) was seized by authorities in Mogadishu and is still sitting in Somalia’s central bank, according to the lawyer hired to defend the foreign security team facing charges of illegally bringing in large sums of cash.
Somalia Report is still trying to establish whether the money has been secretly released, the owners have paid new money with some kind of assurance they will get their cash back from Somalia, or if they have decided just to pay the ransom again and write off the money nestling within the central bank (Diplomatic sources told Somalia Report that $2.1 million was paid for the MV Suez).
Such questions won’t matter to the 23 crew members of the vessel, who will just be happy to be released – although their freedom was almost short-lived. Just after it headed off to apparent freedom, pirates launched a new attack on the Panamanian-flagged vessel, crew members told the Times of India newspaper. The crew said they tried but failed to gain assistance from the Indian navy, but managed to repel the boarders.
The release of the ship, operated by Port Said-based Red Sea Navigation Company, also raises the issue of economic damage being suffered by Egypt due to piracy. The commercial manager of the firm told the press early this year that the firm paid $1.5 million ransom in 2009 to secure the release of sister-ship the Al Mansoura, as well as giving up 15,000 tons of cement.
But that is small fry compare to the cost being borne by the Egyptian government. A report released last year by the Chatham House shows the Suez Canal could be in jeopardy of losing revenue due to the intensification of piracy attacks along the coast of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden. The US-based NGO One Earth Foundation says that Egypt is losing US$ 6.42 million annually due to ships re-routing away from the Gulf of Aden because of pirates.
The MV Zirku was set free for significantly less than the $12 million the pirates were claiming, according to a local anti-piracy group, which put the figure at $2.5 million. The United Arab Emirates-flagged vessel was hijacked on March 28, some 250 nautical miles South East of the port of Salalah in Oman, along with a multinational crew of 29.
In addition, the German-owned, Antigua and Barbuda-flagged MV Susan K and its ten crew were Friday gratefully heading for Djibouti after an estimated $4 million was paid for its release.
Drama on the seas
The most dramatic news this week was undoubtedly the blaze that swept through the MV Orna, rather unfortunately loaded with 26,000 tons of coal. The fire didn’t reach the cargo, but forced the pirates to evacuate the 18 Syrians and one Sri Lankan on board to another ship. No injuries were reported – except perhaps to the pride of the hostages, who had to be grateful to their captors for the rescue – although the cabin and living quarters were reported to be gutted. The cause of the fire is still uncertain.
Finally, EU NAVFOR revealed a German warship under its command had destroyed two skiffs being towed behind a mothership, putting the vessel, known as Jelbut 31, out of action for an unspecified period of time. This is a common tactic, designed to limit piracy without endangering the lives of hostages on board mother ships – in this case eight fishermen from an unknown country.
“We are of course aware of the criticism that we get for not attacking the dhow itself, but the safety of the hostages is our primary concern,” EU NAVFOR Spokesman Paddy O’Kennedy told Somalia Report.
“If we can take away their ability to attack other vessels whilst at the same time not endangering the hostages then we have disrupted a PAG (Pirate Action Group) - one of our primary mandates,” he added. “Have we deterred them from doing it again? Probably not, but it’s a result as far as merchant shipping in the area is concerned.”
Hijacked vessel list
MV OLIB G
Taken: September 8, 2010
While there has been a spate of releases of vessels recently as owners and insurers stump up big money, there is no end in sight for the 15 Georgians and three Turks who make up the crew of the MV Olib G.
The MV Olib G was controlled by Frio Maritime SA (Tel: + 00302109333856), and her managers are Frio Ventures SA, both of Athens, Greece. However, sources in Greece told Somalia Report this week that Frio Maritime went out of business in February 2011, meaning that negotiations for a ransom payment have halted completely. Various media reports last year said that pirates had demanded a $15 million ransom, while the owners, in line with their apparently precarious financial position and seemingly oblivious to the going rate, offered $75,000, which they then doubled.
The Maltese-flagged, 6375-dwt vessel, was hijacked by pirates in the eastern part of the Gulf of Aden on September 8, 2010. The USS Princeton from Combined Task Force 151 scrambled a helicopter after reports a skiff was approaching the ship, and confirmed that at least two pirates were on board, according to EU NAVFOR. The vessel is believed to be anchored near Garacad region.
The chemical/oil tanker was sailing west in an internationally recommended transit corridor through the Gulf of Aden, allegedly on ballast. Ecoterra Intl, a group which monitors marine activity off the coast of Somalia and which has a particular interest in alleged illegal fishing and toxic dumping, hinted in its newsletter it believed the ship may have been involved in dumping in the waters off the chaotic Horn of Africa nation.
Allegations of toxic dumping continue to dog foreign vessels off Somalia, although there has been no concrete evidence produced in recent years, and bodies such as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and foreign navies believe that is largely a historical phenomenon used as an excuse by pirates (who say they are defending their coastal waters) to continue their lucrative activities.
"We have seen absolutely no evidence of such activity at all," Michiel B Hijmans, Commander of NATO's Ocean Shield anti-piracy mission, told Somalia Report. "There has been some of this many years ago, but not anymore in the last years. I am afraid it is indeed just an excuse used to misinform and by that to mislead the Somali people and also some in the international community."
Some local communities accuse foreign navies of complicity in illegal fishing and toxic dumping, while Ecoterra Intl says it has proof that both activities are ongoing. However, the group declined to discuss the issue or reveal any of its evidence to Somalia Report, which is conducting its own on-the-ground investigation to see if any proof can be turned up.
Frio Ventures SA
Activity : Ship Owner/Manager/Operator Address : Ethnarkhou Makariou Street Alimos, 2 174 55 Athens, Greece
MV ICEBERG 1
Taken March 29, 2010
For a detailed profile and background, please see our piracy report from June 3.
FV PRANTALAY 12
Taken: April 18, 2010.
For a detailed profile and background, please see our piracy report from June 3.
Flag: Panama Crew: 24 IMO: 9299563
Taken: October 30, 2010
The Liberian-owned vessel was attacked and boarded at night 667 miles east of Socotra Island, Yemen.
The vessel was attacked by pirates November 26, 2010 while underway 293 miles west of the Maldives on the Indian Ocean. All crew are still being held hostage.
MV MSC PANAMA
Taken: December 10, 2010
Hijacking occurred 276 miles south east of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.
Taken: December 20, 2010
The UAE-owned vessel was attacked by two pirate skiffs armed with RPGs and small arms 460 miles north east of the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean. Nineteen hostages are still being held on board the ship. MV Orna was operating as a mother ship, but on June 16 a fire on board gutted the bridge and living quarters, forcing the pirates to take the hostages to another vessel.
FV SHIUH FU No.1
IMO: Fishing vessel, not registered
Taken: December 25, 2010
The fishing vessel was attacked in the morning by a pirate skiff 138 miles off the north east tip of Madagascar but there were no further communications from the crew. Sources close to the negotiation team told Somalia Report that the captors are demanding ransom money amounting to $ 1million for the release of the vessel. Her multi-national crew is comprised of fourteen Chinese, fourteen Vietnamese, and one Taiwanese sailor.
Taken: January 1, 2011
The vessel was attacked 172 miles south east of the Port of Salalah, Oman.
Taken: January 7, 2011
The vessel was attacked in the Gulf of Aden 563 miles south of the Port of Salalah, Oman by a pirate skiff. All crew members are still being held hostage.
MV HOANG SON SUN
The Vietnamese-owned vessel was attacked January 19, 2011 by pirates 598 miles south east of the Port of Muscat, Oman. All crew members are still being held hostage by pirates.
MV SAVINA CAYLYN
Taken: February 8, 2011
The vessel was attacked by pirates 771 miles east of Socotra Island, Yemen. There is no communication and all crew are still being held hostage.
Taken: Feburary 12, 2011
The vessel was attacked in the Northern Arabian Sea 402 miles east of Masirah, Oman. All crew members are still being held hostage.
MV ROSALIA D’AMATO
Taken: April 21, 2011
The vessel was attacked 402 miles south east of Salalah, Oman.
The Singaporean-owned vessel was attacked 207 miles east of Malindi, Kenya. Negotiations for the release of the vessel and her twenty five crew members are ongoing.
Crew: 5 Danish Passengers, 2 Danish Crew members
IMO: 43-foot Pleasure sailing craft, not registered
Taken: February 27, 2011
The small private yacht was hijacked by pirates while on a world tour. The hostages include two crew members, and a family of five including three children age 13 – 17. The sailboat was attacked approximately 600 miles east of Somalia in the Indian Ocean. The hostages are being held aboard MV Dover.
Flag: Yemen Crew: 8
IMO: Fishing vessel, not registered
Taken: February 13, 2011
The vessel was attacked near Socotra Island in the Gulf of Aden.
Taken: February 28, 2011
The Greek-owned vessel was attacked while it was 300 miles north east of Salalah, Oman. Negotiations are in the final stages.
FV JELBUT 33
The fishing dhow is currently being used by pirates as mother ship. Last known position (14 may) was 1538N 05816E.
FV JELBUT 31The fishing dhow was on 10th June disrupted by a German warship, which destroyed its skiffs and forced the mothership to return to Somalia. The origin of the vessel is unknown, but EU NAVFOR believes it has eight hostages on board.
Send your tips to firstname.lastname@example.org
This list is compiled from various sources, including pirates, ship owners, maritime officials, anti-piracy groups, local communities, EU NAVFOR, NATO, and Ecoterra Intl.