Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pirates Release Seized Freight Ship As Their Comrades Go For Trial

'Lugela' Freed whilst EU Force Hands Villains Over to Kenya
Shipping News Feature

SOMALIA – KENYA – Despite seizing the MV Lugela complete with eleven Ukrainian nationals on the 25th September, a well planned strategy by the crew of the Greek owned vessel prevented the invaders gaining control of the ship. The men of the Lugela retreated to a secure room and maintained control of the ships helm and other vital services. Although original reports indicated the ship had changed course for the Somali coast it seems the pirates failed to gain sufficient advantage to maintain a proper course.

No doubt unnerved by recent similar cases in which pirates had been seized by attacking military forces the thieves abandoned the ship and the crew emerged to regain full control. The Lugela is now reported to be on a heading to India where her condition will be assessed but we are informed none of the crew sustained serious injury.

Meanwhile the military force charged with protecting vulnerable vessels in the region, in particular those carrying aid for the World Food Programme and the African Union Mission in Somalia, EU NAVFOR Somalia - Operation ATALANTA, tell us they will transfer four suspected pirates into the hands of the Kenyan legal authorities for prosecution.

On the 24th September, the boarding team from the EU NAVFOR Spanish ship SPS Galicia approached a suspicious Kenyan dhow off the eastern coast of Somalia. After investigation, it transpired that there were nine Kenyan crew members and one Somali translator being held by four suspected pirates. The crew was liberated and all 14 people were transferred to the EU NAVFOR Spanish warship.

Major General Buster Howes, EU NAVFOR Operation Commander commented:

“Kenya is one of our strongest partners in the region. Since the transfer agreement, 75 suspected pirates have been transferred to Kenya for prosecution and EU NAVFOR is pleased to know that 14 suspected pirates have already been convicted and sentenced to 5 years imprisonment each. I hope we will continue to tackle this regional problem together.”

With the addition of this pirate group to date, EU NAVFOR will have transferred 10 groups of suspected pirates comprising 79 individuals to the Kenyan authorities for prosecution in the Kenyan national court. Prosecutions are conducted by Kenyan prosecutors under Kenyan Law before a single magistrate. EU NAVFOR officers work in close cooperation with Kenyan prosecutors and the local police to prepare the prosecution case. In all cases, the accused persons have the benefit of legal representation.

Finally with the methods being introduced by wary ship owners and the improved communications and intelligence employed by private vessels and combined military forces alike, it would appear some inroads are being made into the pirate gangs which have pestered shipping in the area for several years.

Photo:- SPS Galicia