Monday, October 22, 2012

Freight Vessels Still Under Threat as Pirates Release Another Ship

Times Getting Harder for Hijackers as Gang Retains Hostages
Shipping News Feature

SOMALIA – IVORY COAST – NIGERIA - Back in December 2010 we reported the taking of the Orna, a 28,000 tonne Panamanian flagged freighter in a small arms and rocket propelled grenade attack in the Indian Ocean, followed by the sad news last month that one of the Syrian crew had reportedly been murdered by his captors and another hostage maimed when the ship’s owners prevaricated over the matter of a ransom. Now it appears the vessel, together with most of her crew, has been released after the payment of a quarter of a million pounds to the pirate gang holding them.

Reuters say they have heard from the gang leader who claimed that the ransom was paid and the vessel towed away by the owners but the captain, chief engineer and four others were being retained by their captors to extract more money for their release. No other verification of the situation is available at this time.

Attacks in the region have fallen dramatically thanks in part to the recent bad weather but principally it seems by the increased vigilance of the international naval task forces and a hardening of tactics plus the widespread use of Best Management Practices and an initiative to carry armed security personnel aboard merchant and passenger vessels. Unfortunately the situation in other parts of the African continent appear to be worsening as the Somali scenario improves.

Earlier this month we saw yet another attack by a gang intent on stealing fuel from one of the many tankers employed off the west coast, this time whilst anchored off Abidjan. The Panamax tanker was reportedly seized whilst engaged in a ship to ship transfer and sailed into the Gulf of Guinea when she was released having been relieved of 2,500 tonnes of gasoil.

This is typical of a host of smaller incidents which now occur in the waters around the Nigerian coastline and even more common are the raids on anchored vessels in Indonesian waters. It is a measure of how things have changed when one looks at figures released by the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre which show that to date this year whilst there have been 225 attacks on shipping so far this year resulting in 24 hijacks worldwide only 70 of these have been by Somali based gangs who have seized 11 of the vessels concerned, a dramatic fall set against the past couple of years when it seemed we were reporting incidents almost daily when the weather in the Indian Ocean was clement.