Tag Archives: Somalia

MARITIME PIRACY | A tale of two seafarers

From Tradewinds, 2012.05.12

Two Indian crew have revealed gripping details of their four-month ordeal on board the Italian tanker hijacked off Somalia in December and freed last month.

The 16,600-dwt Marnavi-owned Enrico Ievoli (built 1999) was carrying 15,000 tons of caustic soda and 18 crew from Iran to Turkey when it was seized by gunmen.

The seven Indian crew members landed back home in Mumbai on Tuesday.

Roopendran Parrakat, 51, told the AP news agency he had been watching an unidentified boat since he had come on duty shortly before 6am on 27 December.

He and two other crew took turns peering through binoculars at the vessel, which showed up on the Enrica Ievoli’s radar as an ominous blip moving far too fast toward their ship.

“Normally, you get GPS data,” Parrakat said. “This vessel had no details, no name, nothing.”

Forty minutes later the captain sounded the alarm, jolting Shantilal Harji Solanki awake.

“I had a feeling pirates were around,” said Solanki, 52, who worked as a mechanic on the ship.

He stashed his gold prayer beads in an air conditioning duct before heading up to the ship’s bridge, the designated meeting point in case of emergency.

A skiff had set out from the pirate’s mother ship. The crew watched from the bridge as four men in shorts and T-shirts hoisted a ladder and climbed on board. Two carried AK-47s.

They fired shots in the air and called themselves pirates. They said they were from Somalia.

The men came up to the bridge and trained their guns on the captain. “They said this boat is hijacked,” recalled Solanki. One of the gunmen was shaking. Another man was bleeding, cut on the hand and shoulder by the barbed wire the crew had wrapped around the ship to stave off pirates before entering the dangerous waters.

Five more Somalis soon climbed on board. The youngest was 14, the oldest in his fifties.

“The leader told us we are hijacking this vessel for money,” said Parrakat. “We need this money for our country. We are doing this for our country.”

A helicopter flown in by the Turkish navy in response to the captain’s distress call arrived 20 minutes too late.

The crew were held the crew on the bridge. Half got mattresses, the rest slept on blankets. They had to ask permission to go to the bathroom or take a shower. Pirates always escorted them, one man at a time. Photographs were forbidden.

The pirates led the crew — seven Indians, six Italians and five Ukrainians — one by one to their cabins and took anything that could be sold.

They stole Solanki’s two laptop computers, one of which he’d just bought for his daughter, two cellphones, his watch, his leather shoes and all his money.

After a few days, the ship reached Somali waters and the men were allowed to call home.

Solanki called his wife in Diu, an island north of Mumbai, India’s financial capital. “I told my wife, ‘I am hijacked. Don’t worry, we are OK,'” he recalled.

His two daughters were sobbing too hard to speak clearly. “Papa come soon,” they said.

The crew did not become friends with their captors over the long months of captivity. They barely learned each other’s names. The pirates slept separately and ate their own meals. The Somalis brought sheep on board, slaughtering one each day for food.

The crew played cards, mostly gin rummy, to fill the empty hours. Some prayed.

No one thought of escape. “Everyone was afraid for his life,” said Parrakat.

“I can’t be faster than a bullet,” said Solanki.

Once the ship reached Somali waters, Maya’s group handed the vessel over to anther crew of pirates led by a man named Loyan.

Twice Enrica Ievoli was pressed into pirate service.

In January, the ship sailed two and a half days to rescue nine pirates from a failed hijacking.

Five of the nine were injured and one had been shot dead by the US navy, said Solanki. The pirates put the dead body in the freezer and sailed back to Somalia.

In March, Loyan ordered the ship to chase a hijacked Spanish vessel whose captain was not following pirate orders. They never found the ship.

On 22 April, more than 30 pirates, all armed, were aboard the Enrica Ievoli. They wrapped their faces in cloths, hiding everything but their eyes. They lined the crew up on the deck so they could be seen, alive, from a small white plane that approached in the afternoon.

The pirates kept their guns pointed at the backs of the crew as the plane circled above and then dropped three plastic containers, each fitted with a small parachute, into the sea.

The pirates scurried off the boat to collect their treasure.

Then a new kind of fear settled on the crew.

“Until that day, they had reason to keep us alive,” Parrakat said. “After they got what they wanted, they can do anything.” He stayed awake the whole night, listening as the pirates left the ship in small groups.

Around 5am, the last few pirates fired three farewell shots in the air.

“It was like coming out of jail,” Parrakat said, a big smile spreading on his face.

The captain called an Italian navy ship patrolling nearby. A helicopter circled as six Italian commandoes boarded the Enrica Ievoli and scoured the ship for any trace of pirates.

“When the Italian commandoes came, we felt OK, fine, we are going home,” Solanki said. He took his prayer beads out of the air conditioning duct.

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Modern piracy: bloodless no more

Rose George writes about the escalation of pirate violence in the Indian Ocean and the possible consequences of the UK’s decision to allow armed private guards on board British-flagged ships.

Read more at http://m.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/oct/30/piracy-no-longer-bloodless?cat=commentisfree&type=article,

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SHIPPING | Vietnamese Sailors Are Home After Ransom Paid to Pirates

Twenty-four Vietnamese sailors are safe at home after an eight-month ordeal as prisoners of Somali pirates.

Officials and analysts said the cargo ship MV Hoang Son Sun and its crew were released last week after a Vietnamese state-owned shipping company paid the pirates a ransom of more than $2 million. The sailors were flown home to Hanoi and arrived on Friday.

Various shipping sources said the ship’s owners paid a ransom in the millions of dollars to secure the release of the Mongolian-flagged ship, which was seized by pirates in January. The French news agency Monday quoted the company’s deputy general director saying the ransom was $2.6 million. The ship is believed to be headed for a port in Oman.

Somali-based pirates have seized dozens of ships in the Indian Ocean, demanding ransoms reported to range as high as $5 million. Ship owners are generally reluctant to discuss details of the ransoms for fear of encouraging more hijackings.

Source: http://blogs.voanews.com/breaking-news/2011/09/26/vietnamese-sailors-are-home-after-ransom-paid-to-pirates/

Money ahead of people: this is one point on which piracy and the maritime industry often converge.

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ARABIAN SEA | Piracy threatens regional economy

Piracy is threatening the UAE’s coastal economy as attacks are being staged following a brazen and successful ship hijacking outside Salalah Port in Oman.

The Fairchem Bogey, managed by Anglo-Eastern Ship Management, based in Mumbai, was seized on Saturday as it was awaiting berthing instructions. All 21 Indian sailors on board were taken hostage.

Tim Stear, the global head of maritime security for control risks based in Dubai, said attacks off the coast of Oman could endanger the gulf maritime industry, which includes cruise ships, superyachts and marine transportation.

“A year ago there was a view that you could sail into the Arabian Gulf without having to encounter problems if you were coming from the Maldives, for example,” he said. “But it has all brought it home now that this is not an ‘off the coast of Somalia’ problem. This is also an Arabian Sea problem.”

The attack on a ship so close to the Omani coast and in the Sultanate’s coastal waters is one of the most audacious raids on a maritime vessel and a sign that hijackers are becoming more daring, even as intergovernmental task forces have deployed navies to protect the vital shipping corridor off the Somali coast.

“Whether it is off the coast of Oman or somewhere else, we are appalled at this terrible situation,” said Keith Nuttall, the group commercial manager of Gulftainer, the Sharjah ports operator, who noted that there were currently hundreds of seafarers in Somalia on captured ships. “I know it is a complex issue, and that many navies of the world are working on combating this, but it is still a depressing state of affairs.”

The scourge of piracy has huge potential to disrupt the region’s maritime industry. The Gulf is a crucial body of water for the transportation of the region’s oil wealth, with nearly 40 per cent of the world’s traded oil supply passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

In addition, the region has a growing cruise line industry and has stated its ambitions to be a global destination for sailing competitions. Ras Al Khaimah narrowly missed out on becoming the location for the America’s Cup race last year because of a legal dispute between the two competitors, but it was piracy that was behind the decision last week to abandon plans for the Volvo Ocean Race to sail directly to the Gulf from South Africa.

Boats will sail from Cape Town to an undisclosed port before being transported closer to the finish in Abu Dhabi. In the next stage of the global race, the boats will sail from Abu Dhabi over the New Year and will then be transported to another undisclosed location before continuing on to the stage finish in China.

“We have consulted leading naval and commercial intelligence experts and their advice could not have been clearer: ‘Do not risk it’,” said Knut Frostad, the chief executive of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Veesham Shipping, based in Dubai, which owns oil tankers and ships that transports cars and trucks, has fallen victim to several hijackings over the years, including an attack from Somali pirates as well as a more recent incident off the coast of Nigeria. Much of its work focuses on Africa, including carrying humanitarian goods to the more secure southern area of Somalia. The attacks and the persistent threat of more incidents has caused a great deal of personal anguish for Ajay Kumar Bhatia, the owner of Veesham. “We always sleep in fear when we put vessels in that area,” he said.

The financial implications are just as worrying. Insurance companies often require companies such as Veesham to hire security guards on board. A journey to Africa could cost more than US$80,000 (Dh293,836) in insurance and security costs alone, Mr Bhatia said.

Source: http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/industry-insights/economics/piracy-threatens-coastal-economy

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FAIRCHEM BOGEY | Crew of hijacked Indian ship “safe”

Maritime officials till late Monday were still trying to ascertain the final destination of the hijacked tanker ”M T Fairchem Bogey”, last spotted in Somalia waters.

The ship was hijacked from Salalah port, Oman, on Saturday. The ship with 21 Indian crew were reported to be safe and according to an official spokesperson of the Anglo-Eastern Ship Management, the captain was allowed to speak to company officials here. However, the pirates have not made any contact with the owners, the shipping company officials or with any designated authorities, the spokesperson informed Deccan Herald.

The relatives of the crew members have been duly informed and the shipping company has put up three family support centres in India. The ship due to inclement weather has not dropped her anchor and is reportedly cruising just north of Bandar Beyla, in Somali waters.

However, Director-General of Shipping Satish Agnihotri told Deccan Herald: “Though the ship has been tracked down, it is difficult to state as to where the pirates intend to drop anchor. Three different groups operate in Somalia waters. Each group has its own style of functioning, different demands and separate anchorage points located in northern, central and southern coastal bays.”

Source: http://www.deccanherald.com/content/185644/crew-hijacked-indian-ship-safe.html


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PIRACY NEWS | “Fairchem Bogey” yet to be traced

O navio-tanque Fairchem Bogey (foto Gerd Seidel)

Mystery shrouded the whole episode of hijacking of chemical tanker MT Fairchem Bogey with 21 Indian crew members onboard reportedly by Somali pirates from Salalah port in Oman on Saturday.

The  incident was reported through the UK Maritime Trade Operations and there has been no communication from the hijackers till late Sunday.

“We are still not sure as to the demands of the hijackers who are probably from Somalian coast. So far they have not contacted the owners or the company officials or any member of designated authorities,”  Directorate General of Shipping chief, Satish Agnihotri told Deccan Herald.

MT Fairchem, a 26,350 DWT (Dead Weight Tonnes) chemical tanker sailing under Marshall Islands flag  was in the designated anchorage area of Salalah port at Oman, awaiting berthing instructions when the hijackers managed to board the ship from a vessel that was ferrying cattle load.

The ship prior to reaching Salalah had discharged cargo at Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia and from Oman port and was to proceed towards China.

According to Anglo-Eastern Management officials, all crew members, “appear safe with no injuries.”

Giving details about the hijacking, the shipping company officials disclosed that when Omani Coast Guard approached the vessel the pirates asked them to move away to avoid casualties to the crew.

The ship, according to sources, has scurried off towards Somalia direction from Oman.
International maritime operation Oceanus, specialising in dealing with high seas piracy, in its statement mentioned that the hijacked vessel was probably, “transiting southwest of the hijack position and is likely making its way to Somalia.
However, it is possible that the vessel may be used as a mother ship to launch attacks on unsuspecting merchant ships, despite the unfavourable weather conditions prevailing during the Southwest monsoon.”

Source: http://www.deccanherald.com/content/185372/hijacked-ship-yet-traced.html



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PIRACY | Freed Indian seafarers back home

From The Hindu (India), 2011.06.24:

After 10 months in the captivity of Somali pirates, six Indian sailors of MV Suez vessel touched down on home soil on Friday to an emotional welcome from family members.

The sailors came by an Emirates flight from Dubai which landed at IGI Airport at 9.36 am, and were received by family and friends carrying garlands.

Relatives broke down in tears at the sight of the rescued sailors as their children carried placards that read ’Thank you Ansar Burney uncle, we love you’, in a reference to the Pakistani human rights activist who facilitated their release from the sea brigands.

Closely holding his three-year-old son, Ravinder Singh Bhulia, one of the released crew members who hails from Rohtak, said, “The Indian and Pakistani media helped us a lot. As far as the Indian government’s role in the release, I don’t want to comment on it“.

With tears rolling down her cheeks, his wife Champa said, “The pain would never go“.

Another released crew member Prashant Chauhan said, “I am very happy. I waited for this moment for 10 months“.

The Indians were part of the 22 member crew, including four Pakistanis, a Sri Lankan and 11 Egyptians, who were freed last week after ransom was paid to the Somali pirates.

The crew of the MV Suez was brought to Karachi on Thursday by Pakistan Navy warship PNS Zulfiqar, which had picked up sailors from the waters off Oman.The MV Suez had sank somewhere off the coast of Oman after running out of fuel.

There was no government representative to receive them at the airport.

N K Sharma, another released crew member, said, “Whatever the Pakistan government has done is really praiseworthy. We don’t know what the Indian government did or did not, but the Pakistan government has treated us well.”

Recounting his ordeal, Sharma said they starved for many days and on some days they just got water.

“We used to get boiled rice, spaghetti and potato once a week,” he said.

Family members of the released men thanked Mr. Burney for facilitating the release of the sailors, but complained that the Indian government did little to save the sailors.

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