Tanker hi­jacked off So­ma­lia coast

New Straits Times - - World -

MOGADISHU: Pi­rates have hi­jacked an oil tanker off the coast of So­ma­lia, lo­cal of­fi­cials and an ex­pert said yes­ter­day, the first such seizure of a large com­mer­cial ves­sel on the cru­cial global trade route since 2012.

The re­ported seizure on Mon­day of the Aris 13 came as a sur­prise to the global ship­ping in­dus­try as pa­trols by the navies of the North At­lantic Treaty Or­gan­i­sa­tion coun­tries, as well as China, In­dia and Iran, had sup­pressed So­mali pi­rate hi­jack­ings for sev­eral years.

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

The tanker, manned by eight Sri Lankan sailors, was car­ry­ing fuel from Dji­bouti to So­ma­lia’s cap­i­tal when it was ap­proached by men in two skiffs, said Oceans Be­yond Piracy di­rec­tor John Steed.

An of­fi­cial, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity, in the semi­au­tonomous state of Punt­land said more than two dozen men boarded the ship off So­ma­lia’s north­ern coast, an area known to be used by weapons smug­glers and mem­bers of the al-Qaedalinked ex­trem­ist group, alShabab.

Piracy off So­ma­lia’s coast had less­ened af­ter an in­ter­na­tional ef­fort to pa­trol near the coun­try. In that time, con­cerns about piracy off Africa’s coast had largely shifted to the Gulf of Guinea. But frus­tra­tions had been ris­ing among lo­cal fish­er­men, in­clud­ing for­mer pi­rates, at what they said were for­eign fish­er­men il­le­gally fish­ing in lo­cal wa­ters.

Salad Nur, a lo­cal el­der, said the ship was an­chored off the town of Alula yes­ter­day. He said young fish­er­men, in­clud­ing for­mer pi­rates, had hi­jacked the ship.

“They have been sail­ing through the ocean in search of a for­eign ship to hi­jack since yes­ter­day morn­ing and found this ship and boarded it,” he said.

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

An of­fi­cial with knowl­edge of the in­ci­dent, who did not want to be named, said no ran­som de­mand had been made.

A Bri­tain-based spokes­woman for the Euro­pean Union Naval Force op­er­a­tion off So­ma­lia, Flight-Lieu­tenant Louise Tagg, said an in­ves­ti­ga­tion was un­der­way. The United States Navy’s 5th Fleet, which is based in Bahrain and over­sees anti-piracy ef­forts in the re­gion, did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

A UN ship­ping data­base shows that Aris 13 is owned by Armi Ship­ping SA, whose ad­dress is listed in care of Aurora Ship Man­age­ment FZE, a com­pany based in Fu­jairah in the United Arab Emi­rates. AP

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