NAIROBI, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) — Somali pirates are holding at least 26 foreign vessels plus one barge with at least 474 seafarers, an international maritime body Ecoterra International said on Monday.
In a statement, the maritime body said among the 474 seafarers are an elderly British yachting couple and five new hostages from Somaliland who are languishing in the pirates’ hands. “At least 26 foreign vessels plus one barge are kept in Somali (pirates) hands against the will of their owners as one Oct. 17, 16h00 UTC, while at least 474 hostages or captives — including an elderly British yachting couple and the 5 new hostages from Somaliland — suffer to be released,” Ecoterra International said.
However, the European Union Naval Force Somalia says the Somali pirates are currently holding 19 vessels, including the latest South Korean vessel.
The figure, according to Ecoterra International, does not account for the smaller sea-jacked vessels from Yemen or Iran and those from countries considered perhaps less important countries. “The smaller and older vessels often have even a larger crew than large modern vessels — and it is the well-being of the seafarers that counts — not the insured vessels,” the maritime body said. “In any case it is still the highest number of abducted vessels at the Horn of Africa since all times and the scourge started to sore immediately with the inception of foreign naval forces in these waters since 2008.”
The development came after the pirates hijacked a Kenyan- flagged South Korean fishing vessel off the coastal town of Lamu.
The Golden Wave — also known by Keummi 305 — was captured on Oct. 9 while fishing 10 miles off the coast of Lamu, Kenya.
The Keummi has 43 crew members. Two are from Korea, two from China and the remaining 39 are Kenyan, the report said. Lamu lies on the north of the Kenyan coast and is near the border with Somalia.
The Gulf of Aden, a body of water between Somalia and Yemen, is the main sea route between Europe and Asia.
Tankers carrying Middle East oil through the Suez Canal must pass first through the Gulf of Aden. About 4 percent of the world’s daily oil supply is shipped through the gulf.
The attacks are being carried out by increasingly well- coordinated Somali gangs armed with automatic weapons and rocket- propelled grenades, maritime officials said.
The Horn of Africa nation has been without a functioning government since 1991, and remains one of the world’s most violent and lawless countries.
The International Maritime Bureau and the U.N. International Maritime Organization have urged the world’s naval powers to coordinate and act against the pirates.
Combined Task Force 150, a naval alliance based in Djibouti is patrolling an area within the Gulf of Aden to help protect ships from pirates.