Piracy REPORT:Piracy
Archive: June 2012
Analysis
Newsweek Pulls PMPF Profile on Opening Day of Anti Piracy Conference
06/27/2012
This morning, Newsweek published the article, "To Catch Pirates, Somalia Turns to Outsourcing" written by senior national-security correspondent for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, Eli Lake. The timing was perfect with the opening of the Dubai-based anti piracy conference.

PMPF Training Base in Bosaso
©Somalia Report
PMPF Training Base in Bosaso

Lake's article originally appeared on The Daily Beast, this morning. The in-depth, first-hand article vanished a few hours after posting.

Newsweek instead published a semi-fictional story claiming that Puntland was home to "secret prisons' although it was clear that his time visiting Bosaso jail was neither secret or difficult. Unlike many western correspondents who shape policy from the comfort of DC or London, Lake travelled to northern Somalia and visited Bosaso to better understand the challenge of land-based anti piracy activities. His reporting on the PMPF was even and accurate compared to misguided attempt to portray Bosaso jail as secret and it's inmates as living in conditions any different than most underfunded African jails.

The vanished article points out that the solution to piracy had been "outsourced" and recounts some of the controversy related to the program. Oddly enough had Lake travelled to Mogadishu or Djibouti he would seen much more "outsourcing" as AMISOM, contractors and the entire UN effort to stabilize Somalia is put in the hands of outsiders.

In Beltway circuits, Eli Lake is no stranger to controversy and is known as the "Rhymingist Zionist" and "the Neocon Rapper" and can be counted on to come down on the right side of a political issue. He is known for outspoken and often right wing opinions along with being one of the most talented rappers ever to put politics to rhyme. Somalia Report is reprinting the article in whole because of the relevance to the ongoing UAE anti-piracy conference happening this week.

At the top of the conference Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs announced that "...the UAE is pleased to contribute $1 million to building and upgrading capabilities of Somali naval forces and coast guard to carry out their missions properly,” according to Reuters. The current president of the TFG had slightly different math. In his opening remarks President Sharif (who is running for election) said, “We are completely ready to combat this problem. Despite our limited funds we are ready to train and set up a marine force that would attack and dispel all pirate activities.” He estimated that it would require, "only around $230 million to tackle the problem within a year."

There are no pirates operational in the area controlled by the TFG and the region of Galmadug has little to no funding to combat piracy. Puntland had used generous funds from the UAE to build up a 1000 man army, the PMPF, that recently deployed in the heart of pirate held areas.

The one million dollars was publicly pledged by the UAE after the multi-million dollar a month Puntland program was suddenly shut down last week. A group of a dozen expats were asked to stay behind, their funds paid up front by the Puntland Government.

Here is the article in full:

"To Catch Pirates, Somalia Turns to Outsourcing"

Eli Lake, Senior National-Security Correspondent for Newsweek and the Daily Beast

"From the vantage point of a desert airstrip that serves as an airport, the Somali town of Bosaso could be an exotic beach resort. Breezes carry scents of the sea, and the small port on the horizon shimmers against the pastel blue Indian Ocean. The closer we get to town, however, the more the reality of Bosaso comes into focus. Misspelled signs along the dirt road advertise foreign brands like “Marlboro” and “Nokia Telecon.” Shacks of cardboard, wire, and corrugated metal look like they’d be blown away in the next storm.

This is Somalia, one of the most lawless places in the world, a country that has lacked a functioning government for more than 20 years. In that time, Somalia’s shores and waters have been overrun by powerful outlaw-entrepreneurs—otherwise known as pirates—who menace key trade routes, take hostages with near impunity, and at times collaborate with al Qaeda’s increasingly influential local affiliate Al-Shabab. Since 2007, the U.S. government has spent nearly half a billion dollars propping up African Union troops in Mogadishu and paying the salaries of the security forces affiliated with the weak transitional government there. None of that seems to have made much of a dent in the $7 billion piracy business.

Here on an otherwise barren stretch of flat and rocky earth, a band of outsiders has launched an experiment to succeed where others have failed. Funded by the United Arab Emirates—where piracy threatens a massive shipping industry—and staffed by independent security contractors from South Africa and elsewhere, the two-year-old Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF) is building what could be the country’s first, dedicated pirate-catching machine: a highly skilled coast guard and state police for the semiautonomous Somali province of Puntland.

PMPF Soldier in Eyl
©Somalia Report
PMPF Soldier in Eyl

If the PMPF succeeds, it could prove a model for unconventional methods to expand the reach of weak governments. Rather than an occupying military swooping in to sweep out the pirates from their coves, for-profit contractors are teaching locals the art of counterinsurgency. But if the PMPF fails, say some outside observers, these same contractors could be training one side in the next round of Somalia’s interminable civil war. A representative for the government of the UAE declined to comment.

“This project ... is the largest externally supported training program in Somalia,” says Matt Bryden, the coordinator of the United Nations group that monitors weapons sanctions here. “It changes the balance of power in Somalia in a way that other foreign assistance does not.”

“When recruits arrive, ‘they are in rags, they are underfed, they don’t have any clue whatsoever of what entails.’”

When I toured the Puntland facility in February, temperatures hovered around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Summer days can top 110 degrees, forcing the officers to sleep on the beds of their trucks in the hopes of catching an ocean breeze. An eight-foot wall surrounds the compound, and inside are neat rows of tents and shipping containers that have been converted into administrative offices and armories. There is a desalinization plant, shooting range, communication satellite dish, gym, wastewater-recycling facility and one of the most advanced emergency rooms in the country.

For most of the Somali recruits, it’s their first taste of military training. When they arrive, “they are in rags, they are underfed, they don’t have any clue whatsoever of what entails,” says Gert Kruger, a stout South African who has fought in Afghanistan and worked on security in various mines, and now heads the training program at PMPF. He says that for every 500 recruits, only 120 make it through the 17-week training. Most don’t even make it through the first hurdle: running 3.5 kilometers in 20 minutes, followed by 20 push-ups and 50 sit-ups.

Abdullah Elmi, who is a lieutenant in the new PMPF from Bosaso, said when he finished high school, he couldn’t find a job. Then he heard a radio ad about the PMPF. “Somalia for the last 20 years, there has been no security,” he said through a translator. “I want to chase pirates from our sea and make our land more secure.”

Puntland was chosen as the PMPF’s base in part because it’s one of the main pirate hubs, but also because the region is considerably more secure than the rest of the country. Puntland’s president, Abdirahman Mohamud Farole, says he has actively sought help in fighting pirates.

During my visit to Somalia, I attended a ceremony at Puntland State University, where Farole presided over an event with Somali President Sharif Ahmed and other officials of the Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu, who had gathered to negotiate a new framework for a Somali constitution. 

As the dignitaries arrived, soldiers in camouflage fatigues and red berets performed rifle drills. A military brass band played, accompanied by drum majors clad in loose-fitting red shirts with frilly silver epaulettes. A man with the honor guard asked a film producer in my entourage for a tip. He was refused. Afterward, the various leaders posed for photographers on a raised dais covered in red carpet; Farole flanked by the turquoise, white and green Puntland flag, and Ahmed by the Somali flag.

Given Puntland’s ongoing territorial dispute with the neighboring province of Somaliland, some fear a worst-case scenario in which Farole uses a well-trained anti-piracy force to his own end. The PMPF amounts to “an independent private army” for Farole, says the U.N.’s Bryden.

Bosaso Prison
©Somalia Report
Bosaso Prison

Others worry that there’s no governmental oversight of the for-profit contractors. In his book, The Pirates of Somalia, Jay Bahadur tells the story of a former Puntland president who hired a British contractor, Hart Security, to create a force to protect local waters from illegal fishing. In 2002, Hart Security lost the contract to a new company, Somcan, which dissolved in 2005. Some of the Somalis trained as coastal police were out of jobs, and reportedly went rogue. A 2008 report by Chatham House, a British think tank, quotes the skipper of a hijacked Russian tugboat saying that several of his captors were former members of the units trained by Hart and Somcan.

Since 2011 the Bosaso operation has essentially been run by a Dubai-based contractor called Sterling Corporate Services. A lawyer representing Sterling, Stephen Heifetz, said, “The company has been transparent and compliant with the letter and the spirit of U.N. Security Council resolutions and other relevant laws.”

Still, there have been missteps. In April, an officer was shot and killed by a trainee for reportedly accusing some soldiers of using the force’s vehicles to go into town and purchase khat, a narcotic that is chewed throughout the Horn of Africa. “It was a tragic but anomalous incident,” says Chris Grove, the project manager for the Bosaso base. “It is the only such event to occur in over a year of training under the most risky, difficult circumstances in the world.” Grove says the base has since tightened its screening process for recruits “and taken other steps to reduce the likelihood of a repeat incident.”

Supporters of the PMPF say Bryden’s criticism is unfair in part because the U.N. itself has urged Puntland and other Somali provinces to develop just this kind of counterpiracy force. And in an interview, Farole told me he would turn over command of the PMPF to a central Somali government when his country “agrees on a constitution which determines how power and resources are shared.”

For its part, the PMPF points to early successes, including arresting 11 alleged pirates in the town of Hafun in May and establishing a base in Eyl, a former hub for Puntland pirates and the hometown of Farole. It has also overseen relief efforts. In one recent mission, officers rescued 13 women and children stranded in a shipwreck. Another 33 people are still missing or presumed to be drowned. In the nearby town of Qaw, Grove and his men rebuilt a schoolhouse that was wrecked in a hurricane.

As for the captured pirates, they often end up at a U.N.-built prison some 20 minutes from PMPF headquarters.

To get there, I’m transported in a Toyota Forerunner with a driver, a translator, a documentary filmmaker, and a former special-forces officer. An escort truck trailing us carries four guards armed with AK-47’s. Along the way, my translator helpfully tells me that I wouldn’t want to make the trip on my own. “If they see a white boy walking around,” he says of the local pirates, “that’s money.” The translator has spent more time in America than Somalia since the central government fell 20 years ago, and says he doesn’t feel entirely safe himself. He asks me not to use his name for fear that Islamist insurgents will seek retribution against him for helping a foreigner.

The first thing I see after passing through the prison’s iron gates are two black cauldrons of rice and stew simmering over a burning pile of branches and sticks. Not far beyond that, a faint smell of urine prevails. The warden, Shura Sayeed Mohammed, a lean, tall man who wears tan fatigues and a dark green beret, presides over 270 prisoners. In the past year, Mohammed says, the American military has turned over 16 captured pirates to the local authorities, who have handed them to traditional courts, who in turn have given them to him. A record of the prison transfers is kept in a rusted file cabinet in the warden’s office, he says. A handwritten chart on a wall nearby tracks when prisoners arrive and when they leave.

The prisoners don’t have uniforms, and only some have shoes. Many wear filthy T-shirts and an ankle-length garment wrapped around their waist that resembles a sarong (called a ma-awis in Somali). Inside the main yard, a young man with a bulging, round belly stands up and announces in English: “My name is Ahmed. I will try to speak to you.” He complains that the toilets aren’t clean, the living quarters are overcrowded, and the cells are crawling with insects. He pulls aside another prisoner with a protrusion on his head and implies he was injured by the guards.

On a tour, I’m not shown the condition of the cells or the part of the prison set aside for Al-Shabab inmates. Those men are “a virus,” says the warden. “If we let them mix with the rest of the public, they can transmit the virus to the rest of the population.”

I do get to meet Abshir Abdillahi, the Somali who is widely credited with founding today’s pirate industry. He more commonly goes by his nickname, Boyah. At 6-feet-6, he towers above me. He’s dressed in a floral blue-and-violet shirt, wears designer sunglasses and by all appearances, has the run of the place. At one point, he leaves an administrative office in a huff, refusing to grant an interview unless he’s paid.

Before he was caught, Boyah often operated out of the port city of Eyl, far from the reaches of Mogadishu. Eyl is now in the hands of the PMPF. “It was the first place where pirates started,” says Farole. “But now we clean it up.” ©2011 The Newsweek/Daily Beast Company LLC

Exclusive
One Ship, Three Different Stories
06/26/2012
MV Iceberg
EU NAVFOR
MV Iceberg

Once again, conflicting reports are circling around the release of the MV Iceberg, hijacked by Somali pirates on March 29, 2010 near the port of Aden, giving it the distinction of being the longest held vessel.

In the first story, relatives of the seafarers this week said the MV Iceberg and her crew of 23 are due to be released by mid-July.

"We have been told it will happen in July," the father of a captured sailor told The National. "I have not spoken to my son in more than a year. I constantly worry about his health and condition. We just want them to be free and that's all we are working towards."

The second and official version is that nothing is happening and something is happening. The Indian high commissioner, Ghana high commissioner and Yemeni diplomatic officials in Nairobi told Somalia Report they have not heard anything about the potential release of the vessel. The Indian Ambassador to Dubai, however, repeated the relatives claims.

"They have negotiated," said MK Lokesh, the Indian ambassador to the UAE told The National. "Our hope is there will be a resolution by mid-July. We have requested the ship owners find an early solution."

In the third version, pirates today told Somalia Report the ransom negotiations have concluded and they are on standby aboard the vessel awaiting ransom amounting to US$ 6 million. The pirates added they have increased the number of gunmen in and around the vessel to protect the ransom money handlers.

There are however, two reasons the release may take longer than the relatives believe. Frist, the pirates said they are holding the captives on land and will need to get them back on the vessel while dodging anti-piracy patrols. The vessel is also damaged and part of it is out of water and repairs are unlikely anytime soon.

Thoughout the 27 months in captivity, rumors and drama have centered around the Panama flagged vessel from confusion over ransom drops, to claims of the Iceberg carrying toxic chemicals, to the death of a crewman and total abandonment by the shipowner. Somalia Report breaks down the claims and timeline.

Death of a Crewman

The crew was originally made up of 24 members, but one reportedly died seven months into the ordeal. The remaining crew of 23 are made up of eight Yemeni, six Indians, four Ghanains, two Sudanese, two Pakistani and one Filipino.

On October 27, 2010 the Yemeni 3rd Officer of the vessel reportedly died of malnutrition. Crew members told Somalia Report that the deceased crewman began to suffer psychological problems during his time in captivity and jumped overboard.

The body was retrieved and was being kept in a freezer on the vessel. The crew reported the matter to the ship owner, but the owner just gave instructions to take the body off the vessel.

By February 22, 2011 a German naval ship with the designation "F804" came alongside to render aid and remove the cadaver which was - by then - being stored in the cold locker without electricity. The ship was was warned off by the pirates.

Three of the remaining 23 crew members on the vessel were also suffering similar conditions, the crew members said at the time. It is unknown if this remains the case two years later.

Missing Crewman

The chief engineer was abducted on February 9, 2011 by his captors and taken to an unknown destination. The second engineer of the vessel, Francis Koosom, told Somalia Report that the chief engineer was taken by heavily armed men to an unknown destination ashore.

“We are very worried because early this week our captors gave us 48 hours saying that they will execute us if the ship owner isn’t going to pay them ransom money to secure for our freedom by yesterday evening,” Koomsom told Somalia Report at the time of the incident.

There has not been an update on the whereabouts of the crewman.

Confusion Over Ransom

Throughout the last two years, there have been countless ransom demands accompanied by more high-seas drama.

In April 2011 the pirates sent a mobile phone video to an Indian news station to force negotiations claiming the murder of the crew member and sickness on board.

After little success, the pirates told the owner not to contact them until he had the ransom. After a lapse of months with no contact the owner brought in former TFG Defense Minister General Naji to help negotiate. The ransom was reduced to $3 million but the company only counter offered with $300,000. Negotiations were cut off by the pirates.

In early September 2011 the pirates originally demanded $10 million dollars which by any standard is unreleastic. This put the negotiation with the Yemeni owner based in Dubai in peril. Predictably the negotiations faltered. The pirates then began contacting and terrorizing the families of crew members in Ghana, Yemen and India and making threats and demand including 48 hour deadlines to kill the crew unless the ransom was paid. A Ghanaian crew member who spoke to Richard Mensah at Citi News:

“After two months of our capture, our provisions got finished and they supplied us with flour, rice and sugar. We are all accommodated in a small cabin and we sleep close to each other, there is a gunman at the window and another at the entrance and before you go out you ask permission at gun point. What we are going through is more than brutality.

“What we receive from them is starvation; in fact the water we drink is very bad. At a point all the water got finished and we had to drink from the drips of the air conditioner. In fact we are going through hell here, what we are going through is more than hell. The pirates say their ransom is ten million dollars but from our point of view even if we give them 400,000 dollars they will take.

“They have given us a 48 hour deadline that if we don’t come up with anything reasonable they will kill some of us and sink the vessel. I am appealing to the Ghanaian authority that they should do something to save our lives because our treatment here is inhuman,” he said.

By late September, the pirates demanded $8 million in ransom and claimed that the health of crew was deteriorating due to the secret chemicals the vessel is carrying, according one of the pirates holding the vessel who spoke Somalia report by phone.

MV Iceberg Hostage
MV Iceberg Hostage

“The health situation of the crew is very serious. First there were 24 crew and one died last February. The 23 that remain are in poor condition due to the poison from the chemicals on the ship," said Aadan, a self-declared pirate spokesman who uses only his first name, while on a board the vessel.

“We are demanding $8 million since this vessel is carrying chemical materials. When we hijacked this vessel the owner of the vessel ordered the crew to exit the vessel because the owner doesn’t want the world to know his vessel is carrying chemical materials," said the pirate.

Although the pirate could not identify the type of chemicals, he explained to Somalia Report that the crew "can't take food well and are losing weight. They are in pain."

Other reports indicated the vessel is officially carrying machinery bound for the United Arab Emirates.

Over the last two years, there have also been several false reports about the ship being released, including one in October 2011.

“We are still on the vessel. We heard the international media published stories that the MV Iceberg was released, but we are not close to releasing this vessel. Right now we don’t care about the crew's situation. We are just holding them and the vessel until we will get our demanded ransom,“ a spokesman of the pirate group, Aden, told Somalia Report at the time.

Crew members then sent out a distress call asking for help. A Ghanaian crew member Francis Koomson told Somalia Report in October 2011 that their vessel was taking in water and the engine room was flooding. He said they had contacted Mombasa Maritime Rescue Coordination Center for assistance.

“We need water, medicine, diesel and food. Things are very bad here, we need urgent assistance,” he pleaded.

By December 2011, the pirates said they were moving some of the extremely ill hostages to land.

Ship Facts

Launched in 1976, the MV Iceberg is owned by Azal Shipping run by Mr. Yassir Amin. The vessel is a Ro/Ro carrying 4,500 tons of liquid natural gas cylinders, shipped from the oil port in Little Aden run by Aden Refinery Company. She was bound for Jebel Ali in the UAE when hijacked only ten nautical miles out of the port of Aden.

The shipowner said the MV Iceberg was laden with generators, transformers and empty fuel tanks for British power rental company Aggreko International Power Projects.

Swedish filmmaker Neil Bell is finishing an 80 minute documentary on the plight of the MV Iceberg and the pirates for Rabotat films. If the trailer is indicative of the rest of the film it will be riveting. The pirates kept a crew of 33 guards on board but have given up and reduced the guard to six men.

The surviving Yemenis on board are captain Abdulrazag Ali Saleh, engineer Mohamed Abdullah Ali Khan and sailor Ahmed Fayz Bair. All of the officers have been beaten and badly abused according to a eye witness aboard the ship.

The financier of the pirates who captured this ship is Mr. Aden Abdirahman Ismail (Aden Sanjab) and the commander of the pirates holding the MV Iceberg is Ayub Yusuf, both of the subclan of Reer-Aden/Omar-Mohamud/Majerten.

In another twist a former Somali translator and a former negotiator who was on board the ship for an extended time both allege that the real owner of the ship is a Yemeni named Saeed Mohamed Qali who is currently held in Guantanamo Bay that Azad operates as a front.

Azal Shipping & Cargo
P.O. BOX 29400
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Tel: +971-4-2585919
Fax: +971-4-2585929
info@azalshipping.com
azalsc@eim.ae

At Least One Dead, Two Injured in Fight Among Fatxi Group
By JD 06/18/2012
Hobyo
©Somalia Report
Hobyo

At least one person died and two people, including a civilian, were injured after pirates from the Fatxi group fought each other over money in Hobyo in Somalia's Mudug region late on Sunday, according to pirates and residents who spoke to Somalia Report.

A resident from Hobyo, Ahmed Shiekh, explained gunfire was involved.

"On Sunday evening two groups of pirates fought in Hobyo. At first two pirates talked to each other and then began arguing and one demanded money. After that one shot the other and immediately fighting broke out between the two groups,” the eye witnesses told Somalia Report.

A local pirate also confirmed the fight.

“At least one pirate died and another two were injured including one lady from the city," a pirate based in Hobyo told Somalia Report.

After fighting began residents fled to their homes to avoid the gunfire, according to locals.

In order to determine the cause of the fight, Somalia Report contacted the Fatxi Group for more information.

“The conflict was old and dates back to November 2011 when a pirate gave some of his ransom money to his friend. Both pirates are from the same group. Last month the man who loaned the money needed it back but the other one refused to pay when they met in Hobyo yesterday. When he refused, the other pirate shot him,” said a pirate from Fatxi group.

“The money was ransom of MV SAMHO DREAM which pirates released in November last year after they got $9.5 million,” added the pirate.

Crew of the MV Leopard in April 2011
©Somalia Report
Crew of the MV Leopard in April 2011

The situation in Hobyo is now calm, but still the residents fear fighting could break out again at anytime.

The Fatxi Group is a well known pirate group in Mudug region and most of the group's pirates hail from the Sacad clan (Hawiye). The two pirates who shot to each other on Sunday are from Nimcaale clan, a subclan of Sacad clan. The leader of this group is Fatxi, while Xayle Hurde is a commander and their investor is Laaye. Currently the group is holding the MV LEOPARD hostages - four Filipinos and two Danish men - on land in the Hobyo area.

The relationships among pirates in this group are fragile and have been marked by in-fighting in the past. In April of this year, the same group fought over same hostages after disagreeing on a ransom amount.

Exclusive
Weather, a lack of investment and the PMPF all factors
By JD 06/18/2012
PMPF Soldier in Eyl
PMPF Soldier in Eyl

Things have been quiet at sea for Somalia’s pirates in recent weeks. Some admit that their operations have been reduced over the last four weeks, and Somalia Report has confirmed via sources that several factors are at the root of this period or apparent inactivity. Speaking to pirate sources, poor weather conditions due to the start of the southwestern monsoon season, a lack of investment from wealthy backers and the recent anti-piracy activities of the Puntland Marine Police Force have all been cited as reasons for the lack of pirate attacks in recent weeks, according to witness and pirates from different regions who spoke to Somalia Report.

May 4th of this year was the last time pirate groups planned confirmed operations to hijack vessels at sea. At that time, pirates from the Harardhere area, in Somalia's Mudug region, set out in three speed boats with nine armed pirates in each craft. Since then there has been very little in the way of organized pirate activity in the region.

Somalia Report spoke to people in Puntland's Galmudug region and locations in southern Somalia including al Shabaab-held Kismayo about piracy plans.

“Yes our operations have been reduced last three weeks. This does not mean that we stop our duty, but there are some reasons which reduced our attacks,” Mahdi Abdi, a pirate based in Wisil, in Galmudug region, told Somalia Report.

Harardhere’s operations

Harardhere has become the pirates’ capital in the last couple of years, as well as being the city in the heart of pirate’s operations in the region. Groups of Somali pirates who are based in the Harardhere area claim that different reasons have reduced their new operations.

“Yes, it’s true, our operations were reduced. The first reason is lack of investment and second is bad weather. Our investors stopped investing in our operations after a high number of attacks finished unsuccessfully, so they lost a lot of money and now they don’t want to invest in us. And weather, we heard that there is power full winds,” Tuur, a pirate based in Harardhere, told Somalia Report.

Following the helicopter strike by EU forces on May 15th on a pirate base on a beach in Handulle, around 11 miles from Harardhere, Mudug region, Somalia Report asked if fear of further air strikes could also be a factor in the reduction in pirate activity.

“It can cause pressure on us, but I don’t think that EU’s anti-piracy airplanes can stop our missions. The main things are related to our internal reasons and the main one is investment, because our businessmen stopped investing in us. Since there haven't been any vessels released, there isn't any rasom money avaiable for new operations. As soon as we get ransom, soon our operations will begin,” Tuur told Somalia Report.

Even with the windfall from the ransom of the MT

MT Liquid Velvet
Erick Antonio Montalvo
MT Liquid Velvet
Liquid Velvet on June 5th, this situation is unlikely to change. There have been very few high profile, successful pirate hijackings over the last few months. Figures released by EU NAVFOR for the month of May show just seven ‘incidents’ and two attacks, one of which resulted in the successful hijacking of the MT Smyrni by pirates belonging to the gang run by Isse Yulux.

The Somali pirates who are in the Harardhere area usually use different bases when they are planning new attacks. The best known being the beaches of Harardhere, Hundulle and another small village which pirates settled near Handulle, close to where pirates hold the Malaysian-flagged MV Albedo, although its crew is now being held on land. The Somali pirates who operate in these areas mainly belong to clans from Southern Somalia. When approached by Somalia Report, residents in Harardhere confirmed that pirate’s operations have stopped over the last three weeks.

Somalia Report spoke with Ahmed Jama, an elder from Harardhere. “We feel that pirates operations were stopped. Usually when they are planning operations – we hear a lot of noise; cars movements, the sound of weapons at night time. But these days we didn’t hear anything at night time, so there was no new operations.”

Pirates are operating in Harardhere freely without any fear of interdiction. The city is out of control of Galmudug and the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG), and militants from al-Shabaab and pirates control the area locally; militants are holding the city while the pirates are operating on the sea shore of Harardhere.


Pirates dying at sea;-
Pirate sources added that they have lost three groups of men in recent operations and that another two groups returned from sea without any success. “Bad weather affected us really. We lost three groups. We sent these groups to the sea in April, still they have not returned and we have lost telecommunications. And another two groups returned to land without any successful operations. That is why we are worrying,” Abdi Omar, a pirate based in Harardhere, told Somalia Report.

If pirates have been lost at sea, then it brings the maritime security industry into sharper focus. Incidents such as the one involving the US-based Trident Group have caused mixed reactions in the shipping world. Somalia Report investigated maritime security companies recently, and part two of our report will appear shortly.

The second largest pirate base can be found in Hobyo, located in the southern Mudug region. Hobyo is another important base for operational planning. “Our operations become low. Lack of investment and bad weather are affecting us,” a pirate based in Hobyo told Somalia Report.

Kismayo, in Somalia’s Lower Juba region, is another pirate hot spot. Many groups have used the area to launch attacks at sea and also to kidnap hostages from neighboring countries, such as Judith Tebbut and Marie Dedieu. Pirates in the area have good relations with al Shabaab militants who hold the city and use the area for their operations.

Fear of attack

The two main ships of the Kenyan Navy (file photo)
Kenyan Navy
The two main ships of the Kenyan Navy (file photo)
Small islands located near Kismayo are the base of operations for many of these pirates, although they also use the beaches near Kismayo port. These groups planned their last operations at the end of April and beginning of May, but lately they too have ceased activity, although their reasons are slightly more pressing than those of their colleagues. “We stop our operations in the last weeks, because of fear from any possible attacks from Kenya navies and EU’s Navies which is following movements of Kismayo area. We know that western countries are trying to target any speed boats or vessels moving near Kismayo if they suspect , so we stop our operations and weeks later is possible to begin again,” Mukhtaar Ali, a pirate based in Kismayo told Somalia Report. “First we planned our operations in small villages near Kismayo city, to hijack vessels from the sea. But now we are living under fear from EU, Kenya's navies. It’s not about us only, but these incidents also will affect to the local fishermen in the region because those who are targeting the movements of speed boats in Kismayo are can’t classify who is the fisherman, pirate group or trade vessel, particularly at nights,” Mukhtar Ali, added. Other pirates sources confirmed that groups of pirates began to return their old bases in Harardhere and Hobyo after pressure from Kenya and EU’s Navies. Sources added that these groups have better investment since these groups have good relations with al Shabaab militants.

PMPF anti-piracy operations reduce pirate activity;-

In Puntland, pirates who operate in the area are living in fear of Puntland%u2019s Marine Police Force, who began a large-scale operation against pirates in May. Pirates in Puntland have reduced operations dramatically, as the PMPF actions caused a number of them to flee the area for safer havens. There are a number of villages in Puntland which pirates have used in recent years, in areas such as Bari, Nugaal, Karkaar and Mudug regions. While there were well-known pirate cities in these regions, such as in Bari – Bargaal, in Nugaal – Eyl, in Karkaar – Hafun and in Mudug – Garacad, since the PMPF operation, pirates have largely left these areas and the PMPF has maintained a presence in many of them in order to keep the pirates out. A pirate in Bari region spoke to Somalia Report and explained the reason why their operations have reduced. “We still have power to go to the sea and hijack vessels, we can get investment but we are waiting. The reasons first is bad weather and second is PMPF movement in our bases,” Mohamed Ahmed, a pirate based in Bari region, told Somalia Report.

Hijacked Royal Grace and MT Smyrni off Rasu Bina
Hijacked Royal Grace and MT Smyrni off Rasu Bina
The pirates most recent base is in Puntland is in Bargaal eastern of Bari region. It is from here that pirates operating in Omani waters strike out from. The second base in Hul-Anod, a small village in Karkaar region. It was here that Isse Yulux's gang was holding the MT Royal Grace and MT Smyrni. The third base is found in Buq village, a small hamlet 30 miles from Garacad. This is where the recently released MT Liquid Velvet was being held, along with the Panama-flagged MV Iceberg 1.

In Puntland, pirates fled from bases in Eyl, Isku-shuban and Hafun, after forces belonging to the PMPF attacked their bases. Many pirates from Isku-shuban and Hafun relocated in Hul-Anod, only to be forced from there by continued PMPF operations.

Puntland’s Minister for Security, Khalif Issa Mudan, talked about the PMPF actions in the region while he was in Hafun district with the PMPF. “The PMPF are doing their duty, which is to fight pirates and remove them from Puntland’s regions. We know that pirates become less powerful since the troops arrived in these bases – but we hope that they will continue to remove pirates from the region finally.” Puntland President Farole is hoping to rid the region of pirates by August this year.

Pirate sources told Somalia Report that the pirates who had been based in Hul-Anod had a meeting to discuss their future in light of the PMPF operation. “We had several meetings and discussed what will happen next. We can’t be on board the vessels for a long time, so we need bases on land. We are thinking of moving bases to other regions,” a pirate in Hul-Anod who preferred to remain anonymous, told Somalia Report.

Somalia Report will follow any developments related to this story.

Exclusive
Gang applying pressure to relatives in order to secure ransom
By JD 06/14/2012
MV Albedo
EU NAVFOR
MV Albedo

Information reaching Somalia Report late Wednesday suggests that Somali pirates have moved the 23 hostages of the the Malaysian-flagged container ship, MV ALBEDO, to land.

Pirate sources close to the gang in Handulle told Somalia Report that Guushaye, the pirate’s leader and his gang landed the crew late yesterday.

“Since the negotiation to release the vessel failed at the end of May, the group were taking more steps. They landed more goods from the vessel and late on Wednesday they landed the crew and right now they are holding the crew on land,” Mukhtaar Carab, a pirate based in Handulle, told Somalia Report on Thursday.

Other pirate sources in Handulle contacted by Somalia Report confirmed that Guushaye had indeed brought the crew ashore. They stated that the pirates became angry after the ransom was not paid on time. “This group are aware that the relatives are paying only to ransom the crew, but the owner are not ready to pay money for the vessel, so they (pirates) need to pressure the relatives in to paying the ransom quickly. That is why they landed the crew,” another pirate from Handulle told Somalia Report.

Guushaye and his group have landed several more tonnes of cargo from the MV Albedo, thought to be mainly building materials. “After the negotiations failed, they landed more goods from the vessel. These goods are mostly building materials and have been transferred to Mogadishu and Galka’ayo for sale,” another pirate in Handulle informed us.

Other sources in the area added that the pirates took the crew to a forest area in Eastern Handulle, near the Camaara area, which is around 100km east of Handulle itself, and that the crew is being held by “dozens” of armed men from Guushaye’s gang.

MV ALBEDO, IMO number 9041162 and built in 1993 with a dry weight of 15566 t, is owned by Malaysia-based Enrich Shipping, and was attacked by pirates on November 26, 2010 while underway from Mombasa to Jebel Ali, 293 miles west of the Maldives on the Indian Ocean.

Confusion Over Ransom

The vessel has been the subject of numerous false ransom stories in recent months.

The 23 crew members are comprised of Bangladeshi, Iranian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan nationals and there have been several campaigns in recent months in Pakistan petitioning for their release. After increased pressure on the Pakistani government, Pakistani businessman and chairman of Bahria, Malik Riaz, announced that he would be topping up the ransom fund in order to release the vessel and its crew. After an initial ransom demand of $8 million, which the owners were unable to pay, the hijackers reduced the ransom to $2.85 million.

Sources told Somalia Report pirates holding the vessel are pushing heavily for a ransom of $5.5 million and are in fear of anti-piracy operations. Isse Yulux, pirate leader, decided to release the vessel after capturing a second ship, the UAE-owned, chemical products tanker, MT Royal Grace, hijacked on March 2nd of this year. Due to financial pressures, the ransom was set at $5.5 million, but his fellow pirates rejected that sum, blaming Yulux for the break in negotiations. Meanwhile, another source close to the pirates claims that they are threatening the hostages in order to speed up the delivery of the agreed ransom.

In July 2011, the Malaysian owners told Somalia Report that negotiations to release the vessel had halted, due to the company’s inability to raise the $3.4 million ransom demanded by pirates at the time. Captain Ismail Mohammad stated that the company had even been forced to lay off some employees due to the economic situation the shipping industry was in. “We are currently operating with a skeleton staff,” he told Somalia Report.

In May of this year, pirates claimed a ransom deal had been reached and the ship would be released but that proved to be false.

Somalia Report will continue to monitor the situation.

Exclusive
Puntland Marine Police Force Working with Local Officials
06/13/2012
Qandala, Bari Region, Puntland, Somalia
©Google
Qandala, Bari Region, Puntland, Somalia

Officials from Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland are currently traveling to areas where Puntland forces recently conducted anti-piracy operations to work with local officials to determine ways to maintain security and improve governance.

The Puntland Marine Police Force (PMPF) recently conducted operations in Bari, Karkar and Nugal regions of Puntland including the villages of Eyl, Hafun, Bargal, Hal Anod, and Bali-Dhidin forcing pirates to flee.

Led by the governor of Bari region Abdi Samad Mohamed Galan, the delegation traveled from the port city of Bosaso to areas around Qandala district in Bari region to meet the local community elders and officials. The locals welcomed the delegation and agreed to work with officials to keep the pirates away, according to officials who spoke to Somalia Report. Qandala is strategically located directly across the Gulf of Aden of Yemen, making it an ideal location for pirates, smugglers and terrorists.

The delegation spent June 6-9 traveling to the villages around Bargal and are now in Bali-Dhidin where the PMPF recently targeted pirates gathered in two houses in Bali-Dhidin. Security officials confirmed to Somalia Report that one pirate died and another was wounded in that attack. The delegation plans to travel next to Xiriiro to continue discussions with locals. During their meetings, the delegation succeeded in establishing a new administration in Bali-Dhidin by creating a new police force to defend the village against pirates.

While in Bargal, sources told Somalia Report the governor and some members of his delegation were threatened by pirates holding the MT Royal Grace and MT Smyrni in Rasu Binna after they booked themselves into some of the hotels and guest houses.

The PMPF is also currently working with local officials in Eyl, Hafun, Iskushiban and Bargal, according to officials who spoke to Somalia Report to help establish their own local police forces.

Mohamed Ruk, a local resident in Bali-Dhidin told Somalia Report that community would welcome the forces in staying as long as they respect the locals.

Meanwhile, the PMPF detained individuals who were accused of having relations with the pirates in Bargal, including Saalah, a well known resident. He was later released after questioning.

Exclusive
Pirates Claim They Received a $4 Million Ransom
06/08/2012
MT Liquid Velvet
Erick Antonio Montalvo
MT Liquid Velvet
Reports received by Somalia Report suggest that the MT Liquid Velvet, a Greek-owned chemical tanker, hijacked on October 31st last year, has finally been freed by Somali pirates.

The MT Liquid Velvet was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden as she transited from Suez to India. The vessel carried 21 Filipino crew members and was taken in position 12.02N-045.38E when it was attacked but eight armed pirates in a skiff.

The 17-year-old tanker has a gross tonnage of 5,998 tons and is Marshall Islands-flagged, owned by Athens-based Elmira Tankers.

The initial ransom demand of $8million was made some 49 days after the vessel was hijacked. Somalia Report is now trying to establish the amount of ransom paid to hijackers. It's believed the Liquid Velvet was being held by Aw-Kombe, a well-known pirate from the Bari region.

Last reports have the vessel heading to the port of Salalah, Oman, while the Philippine embassy in Muscat has been asked to send representatives to meet the vessel.

Update

The pirate gang who released the Greek-owned Liquid Velvet claim to have received a $4 million ransom for the vessel, which they then released on Tuesday June 5th. The group moved the vessel from Buq village into deeper waters before releasing the captive crew.

“They released the vessel on the 5th of June. We were not aware that they released the vessel because the negotiation failed two times before Tuesday, and this group moved from Buq village to the miles in the sea, and after they released they return to the land with speed boats,” Faysal, a pirate in Garacad area told Somalia Report.

Aw-Kombe and his gang come from the Bari region and were heavily involved in the hijacking of the Liquid Velvet. The commander of the gang is Cabdule Gabobe of the Omar Mohamud sub-clan of Majerteen. Buq village is a small settlement around 30km from Garacad in Mudug region.

Somalia Report will continue to follow the movement of the ransom money and report on any additional developments.

Breaking News
Three Pirate Technicals Destroyed Near Iskushuban
06/06/2012
Village of Bali Dhidin in Bari Region
Photo Provided by PMPF
Village of Bali Dhidin in Bari Region
The Puntland Marine Police Force (PMPF) today attacked covered pirate vehicles (mechanicals) in Bali-Dhiddin village in Qandala district of Puntland's Bari region. According to the mayor of the village, Bari Jama Mohamed Kuurshe, the attack caused one casualty among the pirates and destroyed three trucks with heavy machine guns mounted on the back.

According to local officials the vehicles and or men attacked were under the command of Isse Yulux who is currently holding the hijacked MT Symrni and MT Royal Grace and their crews now anchored off Rasu Bina. Accounts coming in from the village of Bali-Dhiddin, near Iskushuban district, are conflicting. Some witnesses say the attack was land based, other say that fire was coming from helicopters. Although the mayor said there were no casualties, eyewitnesses told Somalia Report that the strike killed six pirates, including civilians and injured seven others.

Ahmed Abdullahi, a resident of Bali-Dhiddin who spoke to Somalia Report, said the strikes were targeting a group of Somali pirates who have arrived the district in the last 24 hours after they have vacated Bargal district. Locals told Somalia Report that Isse Yulux was in Bali-Dhiddin meeting to meet with fellow pirates to plan ambushes on the PMPF when they were attacked. The pirates engaged in a brief exchange of fire with a helicopter believed to be owned by the Puntland government.

This current PMPF offensive began when Puntland officials and the PMPF entered Hafun and arrested a number of pirates. As the Smyrni and Royal Grace ships moved northward to Rasu Bina (south of Bargal) pirates on the ships exchanged attacked gunfire, injuring three pirates. One of them believed to the be the brother of Isse Yulux.

Yulux was also reported to be in Timirshe near the village where the attack took place. Somalia Report has been receiving reports of discussions amongst the pirates to rally local elders and residents to defend them.

The Puntland government recently announced that it's marine forces will be targeting every district where the pirates are operating. Today's attack in Bali-Dhiddin comes after the PMPF successfully installed anti piracy operational bases in Qaw, Eyl, Iskushuban, Hafun and Bargal on the orders of Puntland President Farole.

Three trucks with mounted weapons under tarps
Photo Provided by PMPF
Three trucks with mounted weapons under tarps

Pirates On The Move

Earlier today, the mayor of Qandala district in region, Bari Jama Mohamed Kuurshe, told Somalia Report pirates had moved from Bargal district after being pursued by the PMPF yesterday, and arrived in areas around Qandala and Bali Dhidin. He added that local residents are fearful of more attacks from the PMPF and NATO or EU forces. Qanadala residents reported seeing what they described as NATO warships near the beach and a helicopter this afternoon. The EU has begun land based attacks as well, targeting pirates and their equipment on May 15th.

Mohamed Ruke, the secretary of the Bargal governemnt, told Somalia Report a number of pirates fled Bargal with two ships and one Iranian boat yesterday afternoon because of the PMPF incursion. He added that the same pirates had moved from Hul-Anod Viilage, 40km from the east of Bander Beyla, on May 15 after monsoon waves destroyed two pirate skiffs.

Somalia Report has learned that four houses in Bargal have been used by pirates. One belong to Isse Yulux, one to an investor, one was used to socialize and one for some of their sea guards and storage.

Bargal
©Somalia Report, all rights reserved
Bargal

The governor of the region, Bari Abdi Amad Mohamed Gallan, and several Puntland ministers traveled to Bargal this afternoon from Bosaso, to meet with the local community and the local government officials in the district.

Locals told Somalia Report that Bargal is calm, but they fear more attacks may come as the PMPF continues to pursue the pirates.

Isse Yulux

Pirate leader, Isse Yulux and his lieutenants made the decision to leave the Hafun and now Bargal due to the unexpected presence of the PMPF.

It is the first time that Puntland government security forces have controlled the remote area of Karkaar and Bari since Yulux orchestrated violent ambushes a year ago during his kidnap of a Danish yachting family and crew. Isse Yulux has become one of the main pirates in the Bari region along with his partner Gacan Barwaaqo who is based in the Bargal area.

Yulux is wanted for a number of kidnappings, among them the Danish family and their crew. He is accused of ambushing a Puntland security force back in March of 2011 and then hiding out in Bargal where he has a house and a wife in addition to other spouse in Hafun. When government security arrived in the region Yulux and his pirate crew were forced to disperse. As early as February of this year the Puntland government tried to negotiate a settlement and found their emissary, a government minister killed, and his bodyguards shot.

This led to a distinct political split between the central Puntland administration and the Bari-based "Ras Aseyr" state. The breakaway coastal region had existed before but the escalation drove a clear wedge between the government and the coastal fishing town. In May the self declared president or Ras Asayr was tried for the murder of the MP sent to Bargal. 'President’ Farah Mahmoud (Yosa Jog) was sentenced to death and is now hiding in Nairobi. He talked to Somalia Report about his view of what is going on back in Bargal.

The lack of government presence and a simmering clan dispute has turned Bargal into a militant area. Grups use weapons purchased from Yemen and have formed themselves into simple militias. Bargal was one of the first communities to kick out pirates but have remained a safe haven for the higher ups. There is a smattering of pirates left in Calulla and Qandala where an estimated 120 pirates still remain. Yulux’s group contains another 150 active pirates and plenty of eager recruits to babysit captured ships. Yulux runs a militia of around 70 men on land and sea. Another 50 reserves are based in Timishre. They operate about seven Toyota technical, 50 AKs, 20 PKM’s, 11 RPGs and around seven Dshka’s.

The feudal system still rules along the coast where the major trading partner is Yemen, not Somalia. Small dhows pay $500 for the right to buy fish and must also bring a drum of fuel for the local pirate kingpin. Yulux’s dilemma is that he is wanted by the Puntland government for killing their security guards, has yet to settle a dispute with the clans in Galgadug and is being chased by the recently unleashed PMPF.

Yulux was first targeted as he and a militia of about 48 men awaited the arrival of the Royal Grace just north of Bander Bayla off Hul Anod. Hafun is now locked down by the Puntland government. Yulux began as the owner of a road stop restaurant on the way to Bargal. He quickly rose up the ranks as a pirate leader even though some of his captures being released for minor or no ransom.

PMPF Soldier in Puntland (File Photo)
©Somalia Report
PMPF Soldier in Puntland (File Photo)
The combination of Yulux’s milita linked with a disgruntled Bargal region could create serious conflict during the final steps of Puntland’s entry into the greater Somali political union. The move into Hafun, Hul Anod and other pirate support areas has generated tension amongst local leaders who find themselves shifting allegiances from criminal groups to a regional government. Some areas have taken it upon themselves to push pirates out on their own, angered by the violence, theft, drunkenness and general disturbance to the quiet rural lifestyle. Yulux is just one of half a dozen pirate leaders that are under pressure by sea and now land forces. The current campaign to remove safe havens in Puntland began in Qaw in February, expanded to Eyl in March and now includes Iskushuban and Hafun. Each new entry by the Puntland government required intense negotiation with local government to allow the establishment of police outposts and programs.

Meanwhile Somalia Report has learned that mid level Puntland government and former government officials who are supposed to be bringing Yulux to justice were actually in a meeting in a Bosaso hotel yesterday discussing how to get the pirate a “get out of jail” card if captured.

Somalia Report’s sources insist that these officials were working on a plan on how to neutralize their biggest pirate and not incite a clan war. Originally Yulux was discussing taking the ships south to Galmadug to move out of the operational area of the PMPF, but a longstanding dispute and the risk of losing his ships made him head north. Yulux has also been involved in deadly clan on clan fighting in Rako Raho village in Karkaar last year

Ships Held by Yulux

Hijacked Royal Grace and MT Smyrni off Rasu Bina
©Somalia Report
Hijacked Royal Grace and MT Smyrni off Rasu Bina

The two hijacked vessels being held by Yulux, MT Smyrni and the MT Royal Grace, are being held off Rasu Bina.

A Puntland official confirmed that the location of the ship. “Right now the vessel is in Rasu Bina near Bargal. People around the city can see the hijacked vessel,” Ahmed Gurey, Puntland’s chairman of Bargal told Somalia Report.

The Smyrni and the Royal Grace which was hijacked earlier, were initially taken to Hul Anod but the pirates found their land support suddenly cut off. The remote area of Rasu Bina has been used for other ransom drops because of the ease of monitoring road traffic down the escarpment to the beach and along the remote north south road to Bargal. The Dover, the Danish family and other vessels were anchored offshore here in anticipation of ransom drops.

After an initial disagreement over past ransom splits with Barwaaqo, Yulux has managed to negotiate a safe haven deal with Barwaaqo who will also provide supplies and protection until the expected ransom drop four days from now. It is expected that Barwaaqo is expecting around 20% of the ransom for his protection. Yulux is expecting a ransom drop next week but this has yet to be confirmed. His people are boasting of expecting a ransom of $5.5 million from the insurers of the Royal Grace and and if true, an impressive $11.5 payment for the Smyrni. The ransom may not happen as quickly as Yulux would like. Somalia Report has confirmed that Looyan, an experienced pirate negotiator, has been hired to negotiate the Royal Grace but no clear indication of who is discussing the Smyrni has been learned.

MT Royal Grace

The Panamanian-flagged Royal Grace is a chemical tanker owned by Dubai-based Oyster Cargo & Shipping. It was hijacked off Oman as well on March 2.

The long delayed entry by the government of Puntland into the region of Ras Hafun may also have been related to the looming presence of the tanker MT Royal Grace, held off Hurdiyo just north of the peninsula.

The Suezmax tanker was on its maiden voyage from Sharjah to Nigeria when, on March 4th, Isse Yulux’s group seized control over the Panama-flagged but UAE-owned ship. As the leviathan sailed towards Hafun, about four dozen armed pirates and a dozen vehicles were spotted awaiting its arrival. Their goal was to swap out the sea crew and put “holders” on board as they negotiated the ransom.

The ship is owned by the Royal Oyster Group. Yulux has hired a negotiator, most likely Looyan who was waiting in Galkayo with $500K, his share from the successful negotiations from the Enrico Iivoli . Looyan has already been up to his old tricks and tried to get attention by claiming a crew member had died (without any evidence to support the claim).

MT Smyrni

MT Smyrni
MT Smyrni

The group of pirates on board the Smyrni (under the command of Isse Yulux) say they are planning to move south to Garacad area and then onto Harardhere and Hobyo in Galmadug. Other sources think they will move north to the northern tip of Puntland in Qandala or Caluula. Pirates on land have said the ship will move south into Galmadug outside the operational area of Puntland.

Reports from sources close to the pirate gang run by Isse Yulux have today informed SomaliaReport of an attempt made by the Puntland Marine Police Force (PMPF) to take the vessel by force from its hijackers.

Our sources suggest that the MT Smyrni, a Liberian-flagged Suezmax tanker, which is managed by the Greek firm, Dynacom Tankers Management Ltd., was being held in Bina, near Bargaal. Sources on the ground have told SomaliaReport that PMPF officers operating in speed boats attacked the hijacked vessel, which is home to some 26 crew members and an unknown number of pirate bodyguards or Ilaalo.

Despite the efforts of the PMPF to free the vessel, the pirates defended it, firing on the PMPF who were forced to withdraw and return to port. There are reports of casualties, but as yet no details as to whether they were members of the PMPF or Yulux’s gang.

On Saturday evening, reports reached SomaliaReport that the PMPF were intending to travel to Hul-Anod village, where Yulux was believed to be in hiding. Our sources suggest that the pirates holding the MT Smyrni may now be preparing to move the vessel to another port.

The MT Smyrni was hijacked on May 10th some 630km off the coast of Oman with a cargo of 135,000 tonnes of crude oil. The crew consists of 14 Filipinos, 11 Indians and one Romanian seafarer. Previously, the vessel had been held in Hurdiyo, a small village between Bargal and Hafun in Somalia’s Bari region. Reports suggest that Looyan, the well known pirate negotiator, has been slotted in to liaise with the vessel’s owners over the ransom which will likely bring in millions for its hijackers.