Weekly Report: Friday August 12, 2011
Somalia Report maintains an extensive search-and-rescue database on hijacked ships, kidnapped crews and land-based hostages. In an effort to clarify the often confusing and deliberately misleading information communicated by pirates we will publish a weekly update with each ship being spotlighted in turn.
At least 19 ships (not including the Danish yacht in the list of vessels held) and an estimated 386 seafarers are in the hands of pirates. At least 27 of these hostages, including the Danish hostages and crews from the MT Asphalt Venture and the MV Leopard, as well as two South African sailors, are being held on land or on board other vessels. Bruno Pelizzari and Deborah Calitz were taken off a private sailing yacht in November of last year and are currently being held in southern Somalia. The Durban couple is being ransomed for $5 million dollars. Many other ocean-going vessels were released without ransom or freed by foreign navies.
The long dry spell experienced by Somali pirates continued this week, with the three attacks listed by NATO once again failing to secure a vessel for ransom in what is becoming a familiar pattern. A combination of monsoon weather, on board security detachments and naval intervention has ensured that since the seizure of the MT Gemini on May 30, only the MT Jubba XX (which was quickly released for a pittance) and a small vessel carrying livestock, once again swiftly set free, have been taken.
This week Somalia Report has also received reports from numerous sources that several ransom negotiations are close to conclusion, meaning there could be cluster of releases in the coming days. However, for fear of prejudicing the process, we will not publish any information until the deals have been concluded and the hostages and vessels are free.
NATO listed three attacks, one on Thursday, one on Tuesday and one on Saturday. All were relatively close to Somalia, in the Red Sea or Gulf of Aden, reflecting the continuing inability of pirate mother ships to venture further out to sea in search of prey due to inclement weather.
According to the master of the German-owned MV Vogebulker, Myo Min Aung, twelve skiffs with eight armed pirates in each boat approached the bulk carrier some 20 nautical miles north east of Assab, Eritrea. In a statement dated August 6, the master said the four-member British security team on board fired warning shots, chasing away all but two of the skiffs. The remaining vessels ignored warning flares and continued to pursue the bulker, resulting in a fire fight that went on for around 30 minutes before the pirates eventually got the message and backed off. It was the second time the MV Vogelbulker had evaded pirate attack, last facing boarding attempts in early March.
Later in the week, a security team on the MV Greta deterred heavily armed pirates in the Gulf of Aden by firing warning shots, while a similar picture was presented on Thursday, when another vessel came under attack in the Red Sea near Eritrea.
Concerns over on board security teams leading to an escalation in violence have been well-documented, and the incident around the MV Vogelbulker could be the first signs of such a development.
The pirates were particularly numerous and persistent, and according to Neptune Maritime Security, this could signal the beginning of pirates hunting in packs – although the company chose to highlight that it was the presence of the security team that thwarted the attack.
“What marks this attack out for special attention, and the reason it should be of particular concern to all shipping companies and members of the maritime community is that in this instance, it would appear the pirates attacked in large numbers, en masse,” Neptune Maritime Security said.
“Whether this represents a genuinely new approach to tactics by pirates is as yet unknown,” the company added. “What is clear, however, is that only the presence of an armed security detail on board the bulk carrier ensured its continued safe passage and the safety of its crew and cargo.”
MV Leopard death
Somalia Report this week was also informed that a Filipino sailor from the MV Leopard was killed during the boarding of the vessel on January 12.
The crew has been kept on land since the ship was disabled, forcing the pirates to abandon the vessel and its valuable cargo of munitions. Our interest was piqued when we saw in a video released by the pirates, in which the upset seamen begged for their release, that only five of the crew of six were visible – two Danes and three Filipinos.
Somalia Report had been consistently demanding the status of the missing sailor since April and has finally received a response from the pirates. The only constant factor in the three different accounts of the attack was that the seaman was killed. According to the pirate group holding the vessel, the US Navy killed the seamen when it opened fire during the hijack. However, there are no facts to support this. Another pirate group said that the seaman was shot by the boarding party and his body left behind on the MV Leopard to delay an approaching navy vessel.
The best source for what happened to the missing crew member comes directly from Chilean-born Danish citizen, Eddie Lopez, the 47-year-old captain of the MV Leopard. The July 14 video gives his version of the attack that led to the death of the crew member. He described two skiffs overtaking the MV Leopard and coming along each side. The 10 knot MV Leopard could not outrun the skiffs so Lopez began to make evasive maneuvers. The pirates then began shooting up at the windows in the wheel house three stories above the bucking ocean, sending bullets ricocheting through the steel structure and nearly hitting the captain in the head and splattering his face with flying glass.
When the captain noticed "one of his crew was down", he then ordered the remaining survivors to the engine room to lock themselves in what is called the "citadel". It is not known exactly what happened but the pirates were able to breach the citadel. The captain then oddly said that "the crew is all together". The missing crew member has never been seen in the video or previous photos.
On the subject of crew members killed during hijackings, a US investigation into the death of a Taiwanese captain during a NATO anti-piracy operation off Somalia in May found that the hostage Captain Wu Lai-yu “was killed inadvertently by ordnance”. The deceased was the master of the fishing vessel JIH Chun Tsai 68, which was hijacked by Somali pirates off the eastern coast of Africa on 30 March 2010 and then used as a pirate mother ship.
Wu Lai-yu died on 10 May 2011 during a NATO anti-piracy operation, which employed ordnance to force the vessel to stop, release the hostages and surrender their weapons. The pirates returned fire with AK47s before they surrendered. The naval boarding party found Wu dead in his sleeping quarters. He was buried with due ceremony at sea in his vessel, which was then sunk, as it was unseaworthy after the operation.
Shoot 'em up
Finally, in what is becoming a regular occurrence, pirates once again killed each other in a gunfight.
At least two people were killed and four others were injured as two pirate groups fired at each other in Hobyo district of Mudug region on Wednesday morning. Witnesses told Somalia Report that “fully armed pirates started arguing for unknown reasons and then started firing guns at each other.”
Hijacked vessel list
Taken: January 1, 2011
Pirates holding captive the Algerian-flagged MV BLIDA are demanding $6 million ransom money to release the vessel and her multi-national crew, according to sources close to the pirates.
The sources further told Somalia Report Sunday afternoon that the vessel is being held captive by the Saad pirate group under the leadership of Abdulrazak Sanwein, and she is running short of fresh water, fuel and ship stores.
An Algerian diplomatic official in Nairobi, Kenya told Somalia Report that talks to secure the release of the vessel are being carried out by a Jordanian charterer and a Greek shipping company linked to the Algiers-based owners of the vessel, International Bulk Carriers (IBC).
The general manager of IBC confirmed that the talks to secure the release of the MV BLIDA are continuing. He said that IBC is in regular contact with the crew through the charterer of the vessel, although it is not in direct contact with the captors.
He said that the 17 Algerian hostages are in contact with their friends, relatives and family members in Algeria. According to the relatives of the hostages, the situation aboard the vessel is very bad.
The relatives of the hostages have grown desperate enough to demonstrate in Algiers, saying they feared their loved ones would die due to a combination of the fasting month of Ramadan and the famine in Somalia.
"When we last spoke with them by telephone, on July 9, they told us that they would do the fast whatever the conditions of their detention," the brother of one of the captives, Abdelkader Achour, told AFP news agency last week. "With their being fed, when they are, with pasta and dirty water, I fear that they will return them to us in coffins.”
Reports that one of the Algerian sailors had died were false, Algeria’s foreign ministry said.
The vessel was attacked on January 1, 2011 approximately 130 miles south east of the Port of Salalah, Oman.The 20586 dwt bulker was on her way to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from Salalah in Oman at the time of the attack and she is laden with a cargo of cement clinker.
Crew members of the vessel are comprised of 17 Algerians, 6 Ukrainians, 2 Filipinos, 1 Jordanian and 1 Indonesian national. The master of the vessel is Ukrainian.
The ship manager of the vessel is the Greece-based Sekur Holdings Inc., while her registered owner is International Bulk Carriers of Algeria, a subsidiary of the Algerian National Company of Navigation (Compangnie Nationale de Navigation).
The Piraeus-based Sekur holdings can be reached on telephone at + 302104594100
International Bulk Carriers can be reached at:
Tel: + 21321521323
Fax:+ 213 21 52 11 53
El Harach Algiers,
MV OLIB G
Taken: September 8, 2010
For a detailed profile and background, please see our piracy report from June 17 .
MV ICEBERG 1
Taken March 29, 2010
For a detailed profile and background, please see our piracy report from June 3.
FV PRANTALAY 12
Crew: 25 (14 of whom have been released, and six of whom were reported to have died of an unspecified illness)
Taken: April 18, 2010.
For a detailed profile and background, please see our piracy report from June 3.
Taken: October 30, 2010
Taken: November 26, 2010
For a detailed profile and background, please see our piracy report from July 1.
MV MSC PANAMA
Taken: December 10, 2010
Crew: 19 (18 Syrians and 1 Sri Lankan)
Taken: December 20, 2010
For a detailed profile and background, please see our piracy report from July 15.
FV SHIUH FU No.1
IMO: Fishing vessel, not registered
Taken: December 25, 2010
The Taiwanese fishing vessel FV SHIUH FU No. 1 was attacked on December 25, 2010 in the morning by a pirate skiff 138 miles off the north east tip of Madagascar.
For a detailed profile and background, please see our piracy report from July 22.
Taken: January 7, 2011
For a detailed profile and background, please see our piracy report from July 29.
MV HOANG SON SUN
The Vietnamese-owned vessel was attacked January 19, 2011 by pirates 598 miles south east of the Port of Muscat, Oman. All crew members are still being held hostage by pirates.
Crew of the MV Leopard
January 12, 2011
Six crew members (two Danish and four Pinoy) were taken from the MV Leopard t after it was hijacked. The crew disabled the munitions carrying ship and a Turkish naval vessel boarded the ship to find it without crew. It was hijacked 200 miles off of Oman after dropping off its security crew. The crew members are being held on land and being ransomed with no clear resolution in sight.
For more information and background, please see our piracy report from July 8.
MV SAVINA CAYLYN
Taken: February 8, 2011
The vessel was attacked by pirates 771 miles east of Socotra Island, Yemen. There is no communication and all crew are still being held hostage.
Taken: February 12, 2011
The vessel was attacked in the Northern Arabian Sea 402 miles east of Masirah, Oman. All crew members are still being held hostage.
IMO: Fishing vessel, not registered
Taken: February 13, 2011
The vessel was attacked near Socotra Island in the Gulf of Aden.
Crew: 5 Danish Passengers, 2 Danish Crew members
IMO: 43-foot Pleasure sailing craft, not registered
Taken: February 27, 2011
The small private yacht was hijacked by pirates while on a world tour. The hostages include two crew members, and a family of five including three children age 13 – 17. The sailboat was attacked approximately 600 miles east of Somalia in the Indian Ocean.
The hostages are being held aboard MV Dover.
Taken: February 28, 2011
The Greek-owned vessel was attacked while it was 300 miles north east of Salalah, Oman.
MV ROSALIA D’AMATO
Taken: April 21, 2011
The vessel was attacked 402 miles south east of Salalah, Oman.
For more information and background, please see our piracy report from August 5.
Taken: April 30, 2011
The Singaporean-owned vessel was attacked 207 miles east of Malindi, Kenya.
FV JELBUT 33
The fishing dhow is currently being used by pirates as mother ship.
FV JELBUT 31
The fishing dhow was on June 10 disrupted by a German warship, which destroyed its skiffs and forced the mother ship to return to Somalia. The origin of the vessel is unknown, but EU NAVFOR believes it has eight hostages on board.
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This list is compiled from various sources, including pirates, ship owners, maritime officials, anti-piracy groups, local communities, EU NAVFOR, NATO, and Ecoterra Intl.