[dehai-news] (Telegraph, UK) Somali pirates hijack Greek bulk carrier, an Ethiopian ship nearly captured


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From: Biniam Tekle (biniamt@dehai.org)
Date: Wed Nov 19 2008 - 14:45:57 EST


 Somali pirates hijack Greek bulk carrier Somali pirates have seized another
ship, a Greek bulk carrier, despite a large international naval presence in
the waters off their lawless country.

By Tim Butcher, Middle East Correspondent
Last Updated: 12:32PM GMT 19 Nov 2008
 The East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme said the Greek vessel was
taken on Tuesday in the Gulf of Aden, the second ship seized since the
weekend's spectacular capture of a Saudi supertanker that was the largest
hijack in history.

"The pirates are sending out a message to the world that 'we can do what we
want, we can think the unthinkable, do the unexpected'," Andrew Mwangura,
coordinator of the Mombasa-based group, said.

Mwangura said the Greek ship had between 23 and 25 crew members but he had
no further details. It followed the hijacking, also in the Gulf of Aden, of
a Hong Kong-flagged ship carrying grain and bound for Iran and the attempted
hijack of a British ship.

The British tanker Trafalgar was suddenly surrounded in the Gulf of Aden by
at least eight speedboats. It radioed for help and a German frigate
patrolling 12 miles away despatched a Sea Lynx helicopter.

The German navy said that the pirates fled at high speed as the helicopter
loomed down on them.

The incident came as the owners of the Sirius Star, the Saudi supertanker
captured at the weekend off the Kenyan coast, said that its crew, including
two Britons, had not been harmed.

The ship has dropped anchor off Somalia and negotiations opened between the
owners and the pirates, who are growing increasingly organised and
sophisticated with every multi-million-dollar ransom they secure.

Laden with two million barrels of Saudi crude oil worth more than 60
million, is the biggest ship ever seized by Somali pirates.

But the intense international attention focused on the supertanker did
nothing to deter fresh attacks.

They struck again off the Horn of Africa, seizing a Chinese trawler and a
cargo ship from Hong Kong. An Ethiopian ship was also nearly captured but
the German navy again managed to avert the attempted hijacking.

It suggested that Somali pirates are growing in confidence and do not feel
deterred by an international naval task force under the Nato and European
Union flags that includes US and British vessels.

The spate of attacks led Saud al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, to
describe piracy as "a disease'' and experts warned that parts of the Indian
Ocean previously regarded as beyond the reach of raiders are no longer safe.

With the US navy monitoring the position of the Sirius Star, one of the
largest vessels plying the oceans, official confirmation of her mooring came
from an official inside the divided, failed state of Somalia.

"We have been receiving some information and we now know that the ship is
anchored near Harardhere,'' said Bile Mohamoud Qabowsade, an advisor to the
president of Somalia's breakaway state of Puntland.

Harardhere a well known haunt of Somali pirates, south of their stronghold
port of Eyl.

Salah B. Ka'aki, president of Dubai-based Vela International Marine which
operates the Sirius Star and is owned by Saudi Arabia's state oil company,
said its priority was the safety of the ship's crew of 25.

They comprise two from Britain, two from Poland, a Croatian, a Saudi and 19
from the Philippines. They are believed to be unharmed.

"Our first and foremost priority is ensuring the safety of the crew," said
Mr Ka'aki.

"We are in communication with their families and are working toward their
safe and speedy return.''

The company has set up an incident room to co-ordinate the response to the
incident and it is being run by a British merchant sailor, Captain John
Sparkhall.

Initial contact has been made with the pirates who are expected to demand a
substantial ransom of several million pounds.

While Saudi officials have demanded that the pirates are dealt with by
military force, commanders of the task force in the region gave no hint of
possible action, preferrign to retain the initiative.

Shipping owners often pay substantial ransoms to free their crew, cargo and
ship when seized. But in a sign that Western government will not simply cave
in to pressure to the maritime criminal gangs, the Royal Navy handed Kenyan
authorities eight pirates captured last week when a British vessel prevented
an attack on a Danish ship. They are due to face prosecution.

Crude oil prices jumped immediately after the hijacking emerged on Monday,
but then fell back in relief as traders accepted that the hijacking would
not cause much disruption to oil supplies.

The greatest knock on effect is likely to be in the cost of insurance, which
had already soared eaerlier this year as the number of hijackings escalated.

But the attack on the Sirius Star could also spur shipping companies to
strengthen security, introducing armed guards, or change routes to sail
around the Cape of Good Hope rather through the Suez Canal.

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