Sat, Mar 28, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Somalian pirates seize vessels: EU

FIGHTING BACK Greece called on the EU to play a bigger role in combating piracy in the Gulf of Aden, saying that efforts should not exclude using violence

AFP , BRUSSELS

The Norwegian-owned cargo vessel MV Bow-Asir is pictured at an undisclosed location in Norway in 2006.

PHOTO: EPA

Two European-owned tankers have been hijacked off the Somali coast, prompting an alert for other vessels to watch for a pick-up in pirate activity, the EU’s anti-piracy naval mission said on Thursday.

The Maritime Security Center run by the EU naval force said the 9,000-tonne Greek-owned, Panamanian-flagged MV Nipayia was seized on Wednesday with its crew of 19.

A Greek merchant marine ministry spokesman said the chemical tanker’s Russian captain and 18 Filipino crew members were in good health and that the boat’s owner, Lotus Shipping, had begun negotiations with the pirates.

The incident was followed early on Thursday with the capture of the 23,000-tonne Norwegian-owned and Bahamian-registered MV Bow-Asir with an unspecified number of crew.

Salhus Shipping, which owns the tanker, said in a statement from Norway that the crew numbered 27 members of different nationalities and that they had contacted the company after 16 to 18 pirates came aboard with automatic weapons.

“We have no reports of any injuries,” company director Per Hansen said. “We are doing our utmost to ensure the safety of the crew and have established communication lines with naval forces, insurance companies, flag state and charterer.”

Meanwhile, authorities in the Seychelles said three sailors from the Indian Ocean archipelago had been held hostage by Somali pirates since their catamaran was hijacked late lat month.

“Contact has been established with the kidnappers and discussions to secure the release of the hostages are ongoing. The objective of the negotiating team is for the safe return of all three hostages,” Ernest Quatre, Seychelles police chief, said in a statement.

Ransom-hunting Somali pirates attacked more than 130 merchant ships in the region last year, an increase of more than 200 percent on 2007, the International Maritime Bureau said.

The number and success rate of pirate attacks has declined slightly since the start of the year because of unfavourable sea conditions and an increased foreign naval presence in the Gulf of Aden.

Greece, which is home to the biggest commercial fleet in the world, called on the EU “to play a more active role” in cracking down on piracy after the latest two boats were captured.

Merchant Marine Minister Anastasis Papaligouras said the EU should “expand the rules of engagement and the area patrolled by the European naval force.”

He also called on companies “to inform with total accuracy and in good time the competent services” about the movements of boats.

“The pirates are not the only ones with weapons, the international community and Greece have them as well,” Papaligouras said.

In order to “to protect the present and future of our shipping” all means of intervention would be exhausted,” he said.

The rules of engagement of the European Atlanta flotilla charged with protecting shipping off Somalia meant it could use “all means including force.”

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