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Swift Action Led To Peaceful End To Hijacking

by Ashanthi Warunasuriya

  • The vessel ‘Aris 13’ that was hijacked by pirates was released along with the eight Sri Lankan crew without payment of a ransom
  • Piracy has diminished since 2012, largely due to mitigating efforts at sea by international naval forces
  • Piracy off Somalia’s coast used to cost the world’s shipping industry billions of dollars and was seen as a major threat

Swift action led to a peaceful end to the hijacking of a ship with a Sri Lankan crew by Somali pirates.

The Foreign Ministry said that international assistance, particularly from the US and a Whatsapp call lend to the release of the ship and its crew on Thursday.

A spokesman at the Foreign Ministry said that the Sri Lankan crew was expected to return to Sri Lanka to be reunited with their family members.

The vessel ‘Aris 13’ that was hijacked by pirates was released along with the eight Sri Lankan crew without the payment of a ransom.

“The Ministry wishes to express its deep appreciation on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka, to the President of Puntland, the semi-autonomous region of Somalia, and his Chief of Staff Abdinasir Sofe, who cooperated and collaborated with the relevant officials of the Government of Sri Lanka in securing the release of the vessel and crew. This task would not have been made possible without their unstinted and active effort. The government of Sri Lanka also expresses its gratitude to the government of the United States of America, the Ambassador of the United States of America in Sri Lanka, the Combined Naval Force in Bahrain, the EU, and all other governments, organisations and individuals who extended their assistance in this effort, as well as all local Ministries, Departments, and individuals,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday.

The MT ARIS 13 reported that it had been approached by two skiffs, with weapons sighted on one of the boats.  The vessel soon dropped communication and was reported by EUNAVFOR to have been hijacked by pirates.  It was then taken to the coastal town of Caluula in Somalia’s Puntland state.

The MT ARIS 13 was preparing to cut through the Socotra Gap between the tip of Somalia and the island of Socotra. This route is frequently used as a cost- and time-saving measure for vessels travelling down the east coast of Africa despite the threat of piracy.  Additionally the ARIS 13 has a low freeboard of only three meters and was moving at a slow speed of five knots.  These factors made the vessel an easier target for pirates, who typically board ships with ladders from fast moving skiffs. This attack reinforces the need for vessels to follow shipping industry Best Management Practices (BMP) within the BMP specified High Risk Area.

The group claiming responsibility for the vessel’s capture belongs to the Majerteen/Siwaaqroon sub-clan, led by the pirate Jacfar Saciid Cabdulaahi.

While this incident marks the first major hijacking since 2012, it does not yet indicate a large-scale return of Somali piracy. However, Somali pirates have still been quite active in recent months.

The EU Naval Force (Somalia) said the fuel tanker Aris 13 and her crew reached a safe port on the north coast of Somalia after armed pirates, who had been holding the crew since Monday 13 March 2017, departed the ship. The master confirmed that his crew had suffered no injuries during their 4-day ordeal.

The Operation Commander of the EU Naval Force, Major General Rob Magowan CBE reiterated on Friday the need for vigilance in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean after the Comoros-flagged fuel tanker, Aris 13, was pirated and its crew held hostage for four days off the north coast of Somalia. Piracy has diminished since 2012, largely due to mitigating efforts at sea by international naval forces, adherence to industry Best Management Practices, and the use of private security.  However the situation in Somalia that originally permitted piracy to flourish has not changed. This has left the door open for other forms of maritime crime, such as smuggling and trafficking. There is a need for continued vigilance against piracy and other forms of maritime crime in the region.

Piracy off Somalia’s coast used to cost the world’s shipping industry billions of dollars and was seen as a major threat. But international efforts over the past few years to patrol near the country seemed to have paid off.

The last major attack on a commercial ship by Somali pirates was in 2012, when the MV Smyrni, with a crew of 26 and carrying 135,000 tons of crude oil, was held in a pirate anchorage off the Somali coast for 10 months before being released after an undisclosed ransom was paid.

Somalia, which has suffered from 25 years of conflict, is currently threatened by a famine caused by drought.

Renewed piracy in the shipping lanes would likely impact international efforts to bring food and other aid to the more than 6 million people the UN says are in need of assistance.

Speaking about the incident, which took place on Monday 13 March 2017, Major General Rob Magowan CBE said “Thankfully the crew are now safe, but this attack clearly demonstrated that Somali pirates still have the intent and capability to get out to sea. As I have stated previously, it is crucial that vessels remain vigilant in the Indian Ocean and stay within the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor as they transit the Gulf of Aden.”

Counter-piracy task forces from EU NAVFOR and the Combined Maritime Forces coordinate air and sea assets to deter and disrupt acts of piracy at sea.

 

Somalis Consider Piracy Again, Blaming Illegal Fishing Trade

 

EYL, Somalia — Struggling to push his small fishing boat out to sea, Hassan Yasin grumbles over what he and other coastal Somalis call a threat to their way of life: harassment by illegal fishermen and attacks by large foreign trawlers.

“They will either shoot us on sight or destroy our boats,” the skinny 27-year-old said, yanking on a rope to start the engine groaning. Along the seashore are sand-filled boats that fishermen say belong to colleagues who abandoned the work because of the dangers involved.

Monday’s hijacking of an oil tanker off Somalia’s northern coast surprised the international shipping community after several years without a pirate attack on a large commercial vessel there. Naval patrols by NATO members and other countries like China had calmed the crucial global trade route that once saw hundreds of attacks.

But people in this sleepy village saw something like this coming.

Some are former pirates themselves who quit in recent years as the international pressure grew and armed guards appeared on cargo ships. They turned to fishing but now say they’re the ones being targeted at sea.

In recent years, local officials have warned that rampant fishing by foreign trawlers was destroying the livelihoods of coastal communities, stoking fears of a return of piracy as a way to make money. They have blamed Yemeni, Chinese, Indian, Iranian and Djibouti-flagged fishing boats and trawlers.

“The illegal fishing is a very serious problem. Fishing has declined, equipment was confiscated and they destroyed our livelihoods and properties,” said Aisha Ahmed, a fish dealer. The chairman of the fishermen’s association, Mohamed Saeed, said frustrations are growing. “They have no choice now but to fight,” he said.

The hijacked oil tanker was anchored Tuesday off the town of Alula, local elder Salad Nur told The Associated Press. He said young fishermen, including former pirates, had gone searching for a foreign ship to seize out of frustration.

“Foreign fishermen destroyed their livelihoods and deprived them of proper fishing,” he said.

The armed men were demanding a ransom for the ship’s release and were holding the crew captive, the European Union anti-piracy operation off Somalia said late Tuesday after making contact with the ship’s master.

Illegal fishing needs addressing, said John Steed, the director of Oceans Beyond Piracy. “It’s an aggressive business and in some cases international fleets pressure, even attack, local fisherman, which breeds resentment,” he wrote in an email.

“We have a famine and food is short. Fish is one answer,” he said, referring to the drought that Somalia recently declared a national disaster. “Fishing communities are angry and out-of-work fishermen have become — and are — pirates.”

But illegal fishing is no excuse for piracy, Steed said. He called Monday’s hijacking an “opportunity target.”

The United Nations warned in October that the situation was fragile and that Somali pirates “possess the intent and capability to resume attacks.”

Steed indicated that some in the region had let down their guard as the number of pirate attacks decreased in recent years. And in December, NATO ended its anti-piracy mission off Somalia’s waters.

Abdirizak Mohamed Ahmed, the director of the Anti-Piracy Agency in northern Somalia’s semiautonomous state of Puntland, said he wasn’t surprised by Monday’s hijacking.

Ahmed said fake fishing licenses issued to foreign fishermen and lenient enforcement of regulations by local authorities are major factors in the increase of illegal fishing.

Fishermen have reported several cases of attacks by illegal fishermen, including close-ramming of their boats by trawlers. One fisherman died and another was seriously injured after a trawler ran over a small skiff off the coast early this month, Ahmed said.

Local fishermen also have reported incidents of foreign fishermen opening fire at them or robbing them of their catches before being chased away.

“It’s matter of life and death. Now we have to fight at any cost,” Bile Hussein, a Somali pirate commander, said Tuesday, after the new hijacking was reported. He said he was in contact with the armed men on the seized oil tanker and that they had not yet decided on how much ransom to demand.

 (hotsr.com)

 

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