Sat, Jan 01, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Somali pirates reportedly seize Taiwanese ship

PIRATED:The government has sought help from South Africa and Madagascar, and contacted the International Maritime Organization’s Piracy Reporting Center

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporter

A Taiwanese fishing vessel is believed to have been hijacked by Somali pirates along the northeastern coast of Madagascar and used as a launching pad for attacks on other ships, government officials said yesterday.

There has been no communication since Dec. 25 with the Shiuh Fu No. 1, a 700 tonne long-liner owned by Kaohsiung-based Shiuh Fu Fishery Co, Ltd, said Samuel Chen (陳士良), director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of African Affairs.

The Council of Agriculture’s Fisheries Agency has also been unable to track the position of the ship through the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) since Thursday, as the ship’s system appeared to have been turned off, an official said.

Information relating to the event was withheld until the EU Naval Force Somalia (EU-NAVFOR) disclosed the hijacking in a statement on Thursday.

“During the morning of Dec. 25 the Taiwanese-owned fishing vessel ... reported being under pirate attack, approximately 120 nautical miles [222km] off the North-East tip of the island of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean,” the EU naval force’s statement said.

“No further communication with the vessel has been possible since the attack, but strong indications are that [the] Shiuh Fu No. 1 has been pirated ... It was operating ... when it reported being chased by a skiff,” it said.

On board were the Taiwanese captain, 13 Chinese and 12 Vietnamese crew members, the ministry has said.

The condition of the ship and its crew was unclear, Taiwanese officials said, adding that it was suspected the pirates were using it as a “mother ship.”

“When the VMS still worked, it was found that the ship had been moving around rather than cruising northward [toward Somali waters like other hijacked ships in the past], which suggests to us that pirates on board may be scanning for new targets,” Chen said.

Ecoterra International, a Kenya-based organization that monitors events in Somalia, said NATO last Saturday reported the vessel as having been “sea-jacked by pirates” at position 12°58S-051°52E and was observed to be acting as a “mother ship” at position 12°58S-51°51E.

Further reports said the vessel was commandeered further south and observed on Sunday heading 172° with a speed of 10 knots at position 15°23’42.00”S, 52°14’45.60”E, it said.

“The vessel has a powerful 1,200 HP [horsepower] engine and can run faster, which makes it a serious threat concerning possible pirate attacks against merchant vessels in the area,” Ecoterra said.

On Tuesday the vessel was maintaining its patrol-like pattern at latitude 52 on the Northeastern side of Madagascar, Ecoterra said.

The ministry has instructed its office in Cape Town to seek help from the South African and Madagascan governments and has contacted the Piracy Reporting Center at the International Maritime Organization’s International Maritime Bureau in Kuala Lumpur, Chen said.

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