Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Four Murdered As Pirate Seizures Include Iranian Bulk Freight Vessel On Nuclear Weapons List

The Worst Possible Outcome for Captured US Yacht Crew
Shipping News Feature

SOMALIA – It has been twelve days since our last update on the situation regarding the pirating of freight, fishing and private vessels in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden and, despite hopes inclement weather might reduce the tally of vessels hijacked, once again we have to report the most serious of incidents continue unabated.

In chronological order first some good news, on the 9th February the FNS Pohjanmaa, a minelayer and flagship of the Finnish fleet, acting as a member of the EU Operation Atalanta mission, recovered a South Korean fishing vessel, Golden Wave, complete with her original crew of forty three souls after she was apparently abandoned by the pirates who had seized the ship 123 days earlier. The crew had been left in a poor state with no food or water but quickly recovered after treatment from the naval vessel’s doctor and continued on to port.

Three days later a report from the Maltese flagged bulk carrier MV Sinin indicated she had been attacked around 350 miles East of Oman, a photo surveillance by the authorities revealed two pirate skiffs loaded aboard the captured vessel as she changed course for Somalia without any further communication from her crew of thirteen Iranian and ten Indian nationals. The 52,000 tonne freighter was en route to Singapore from the United Arab Emirate of Fujairah with a cargo of ore.

The vessel is the first Supramax owned by the Irano Hind Shipping Company, which is a joint venture between the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) and the Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) and owns six product and oil tankers plus general cargo carriers. The Sinin’s voyage had not been registered with the authorities, either with the maritime Security Centre for the Horn of Africa, MSC(HOA) nor was her course reported to the UK Maritime Trade Operations Centre (UKMTO) in Dubai which enables freighters to liaise with security forces in the region.

Irano Hind Shipping are present on the ‘Suspect Entity Register’ of Iran Watch, the website maintained by the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, a Washington DC based organisation dedicated to preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

On the 13th of February a Yemeni fishing vessel, the Alfardous, together with her crew of eight was taken close to the island of Socotra in the Gulf of Aden and on the 18th a private yacht, the SV Quest, was seized together with her crew of four Americans whilst taking part in the Blue Water Rally. It has been reported that the four, Scott and Jean Adam, Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle were all murdered by their captors during hostage negotiations. The group was combining an extended cruise together with evangelical missionary work and reportedly strayed off the planned route of the rally.

The murders occurred when the crew of a US Navy vessel, which had been tracking the yacht, were attempting to negotiate the release of the four as a shot was heard prompting the Naval forces to attack the vessel. During the ensuing fight two pirates were killed and thirteen more reported captured. Recently pirate spokesmen have threatened dire consequences for US citizens captured after a sentence of 33 years was passed on a pirate found guilty of hijacking the container ship Maersk Alabama.

The killings have prompted calls for concerted action against the trade and far sterner treatment from all quarters for the pirates when captured, not least from shipping union representatives such as the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF).