A GERMAN heavylift vessel was back in the hands of its crew within 36 hours of its capture by Somali pirates on Sunday morning, operator Beluga Shipping announced today.
There are no reports of anyone being hurt as a result of the incident.
According to a statement from the company, the adoption of citadel tactics by the crew of 16 left the pirates unable to take control of the 12,744dwt Beluga Fortune , after the seafarers retreated to a panic room, switched off the main engine, cut off the fuel supply, blocked the bridge and informed the military of their predicament.
By mid-afternoon today, a warship, understood to be the Royal Navy’s HMS Montrose, was seen to be approaching, leading the pirates to make the decision to flee.
Beluga chief executive Niels Stolnielsberg said: “Our colleagues on board have gotten off rather lightly from this attack. We have solved the situation very soon, which is a great relief to everyone at Beluga.
“Our outstanding effort to provide our seafarers with the greatest possible safety and security on the vessels, as well as the ongoing practise of stressful situations and rehearsal of well-considered behaviour during a pirate attack, all of which we have been training in seminars and workshops for many years, have proved more than worthwhile.”
Beluga Fortune was one of two merchant ships hijacked over the weekend, with a dhow also captured and a number of attacks on other vessels taking place.
In the first incident, a group of men boarded a Singapore-registered liquified petroleum gas carrier off the coast of Kenya on Saturday night, according to a statement on the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore’s website.
The vessel has been named as the 2000-built, 5,076 dwt York, and according to the Lloyd’s List Intelligence database, it is associated with Interunity Management of Greece. The 17 crew comprises a German master, two Ukrainians and 14 Filipinos.
The MPA statement said: “York was boarded by suspected pirates at approximately 90 nmfrom Mombasa, Kenya. A distress alert was received at about 2025 hrs Singapore time on October 23 2010 while at position 4°11’ S, 041°19’E.
“At that time of the incident, the vessel was reported to be on her way from Mombasa, Kenya to Mahe, Seychelles. There are 17 crew on board the vessel.”
The port authority said it was working with the ship’s owner and other government agencies to secure its release.
Meanwhile, the European Union counterpiracy deployment in the Gulf of Aden on Sunday issued a statement that contradicted the MPA’s version of events in some specific details. EU Navfor said: “The vessel was attacked on October 23 by two skiffs, approximately 50 miles east from Mombasa.
“The Turkish warship Gaziantep, operating under the Combined Maritime Forces (Task Force 151) launched its helicopter to investigate. The helicopter was able to observe pirates with weapons on board the vessel.
“Initially York was drifting but then began moving at 10 knots this morning. Including York, Somali pirates are currently holding 19 vessels with 428 hostages.”
The attack is believed to be linked with an earlier hijack of a fishing vessel, Golden Wave on October 9. The fishing vessel was in the vicinity of the York when it was attacked and was almost certainly being used by pirates as a mother vessel.
Attempts by Lloyd’s List to contact Interunity Management were unsuccessful.
Separately, the dhow Sea Queen, with an unknown number of crew, was taken on Sunday.
Unsuccessful attacks in recent days have included an incident involving Costamare’s 1976-built, 1,560 teu boxship MSC Sudan, which took place in the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor on Friday. On Saturday, again in the IRTC, the 1999-built, 51,459 dwt bulk carrier Merlin Arrow came under gunfire. Both vessels evaded capture.
Meanwhile, 13 Somalis went on trial on piracy charges in Mukalla in Yemen on Sunday, the official Saba news agency reported. They are accused of seizing two Yemeni vessels in the Gulf of Aden to use as motherships from which to launch attacks on merchant vessels.
The prosecution is demanding the death sentence if the accused are found guilty. A further hearing is due on November 14.