Wednesday 3 September 2008

Vessel Hijacking off the Somali Coast



MISC places Gulf of Aden out of bounds after second vessel hijacked.

Malaysian international Shipping Corporation (MISC) has stopped its ships from entering the Gulf of Aden after two of its tankers were hijacked in the past two weeks; this effectively means that MISC vessels will not be using the Suez canal (see below)

“Following the recent hijacking of Bunga Melati Dua and Bunga Melati Lima and the spike of pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia, MISC has with immediate effect put a halt on all its vessels from entering the Gulf of Aden until additional security measures by MISC are in place to enhance the safety of its vessels and crew,” MISC said on 2nd September 2008.

A company spokeswoman declined to comment on how long it would take to implement the measures. The move to implement extra security comes on top of existing preventative measures that were in place on board Bunga Melati Lima when it was stormed by pirates and hijacked on 29th August 2008.

MISC is making an unprecedented move by temporarily excluding its vessels from a key waterway linking east and west due to the impact of piracy.

An annual total of about 20,000 vessels of all flags and all types transit the gulf of Aden and Red Sea waterways heading to and from the Suez Canal.

“It’s a very drastic measure. Does this mean they are not going to sail to Europe?” asked a shipping industry executive.

MISC, which operates a fleet of 108 own vessels, and also chartered vessel, has a presence on the Asia-Europe container trades and some of its tankers also trade between Europe and Asia.

Bunga Melati Dua was heading from Dumai, Indonesia to Rotterdam on 19th August 2008, when it was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden.

A total, 70 MISC employed seafarers are now being held hostage on the two hijacked vessels.

The company said that it is negotiating for the release of the crew of Bunga Melati Dua, but communications are yet to be established with the other vessel, Bunga Melati Lima, which was last sighted off the coast of Somalia.

One Filipino crew member, of Bunga Melati Dua, was killed by gunfire when the vessel was initially attacked by the pirates, the remain crew members are reported to be safe. The crews of both vessels consist of persons of Malaysian and Filipino nationality.

The East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme stated that the pirates have demanded US$4.7m to release the Benga Melati Lima and its sister ship, and a further US$3.5m to free a Japanese-managed bulk carrier that was hijacked on 20th July 2008 in the same area.

It is understood that all the hijacked vessels are being held near the remote village of Eyl, where an estimated 130 crew members in total are being kept captive by the pirate gangs. A total of eight vessels and their respective crew members are currently being held by Somali pirates.

Apart from MISC, the vessels shipowners are from Japan, Thailand, Nigeria, Iran and Germany.

Anti-piracy watchdog, the International Maritime Bureau, continues to advise all ships in the Gulf of Aden Region to maintain a strict around-the clock anti-piracy watch, and to only ply so called ‘secure corridors’ set up by coalition naval forces.

The Malaysian National News Agency BERNAMA reported that the Malaysia's Deputy PM Najib Razak said that a Malaysian navy elite squad was on its way to the Somalian coast to safeguard four other MISC vessels now in the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden.

"Our priority is the safety of our sailors".

The Malaysian armed forces chief stated:-

“The Malaysian armed forces have yet to receive any request for military assistance to free the crew of two MISC Berhad vessels seized by pirates last month in the Gulf of Aden.”

‘There was no necessity as yet for military intervention as the MISC was seeking a solution through negotiations.’

“The Malaysian armed forces have yet to receive any request for military assistance to free the crew of two MISC Berhad vessels seized by pirates last month in the Gulf of Aden.”

“There was no necessity as yet for military intervention as the MISC was seeking a solution through negotiations.”

“We sent two warships there (the Gulf of Aden) last Saturday but only to monitor the situation,”

Malaysia’s Chief of Defence Forces General Abdul Aziz Zainal was reported by BERNAMA as saying on Tuesday 2nd September 2008.

Meanwhile, the shipping publication ‘Fairplay’ reports:-

“All Belgian-flagged vessels will be fitted with Long Range Identification Tracking devices by the end of 2009 in response to the increasing threat of piracy, according to news reports.

Belgium’s director-general of shipping Frans Van Rompuy said the government is exploiting available systems that the military already have. The director-general’s department is working with the military and Nato with the eventual plan that if a Belgian vessel should get into trouble, they would intervene.

He said: “This approach is far more practical than before because we would then have had to rely on [a ship’s] position plans.” Under the Long Range Identification Tracking system, vessels automatically report their position at least four times a day.

When a vessel is identified going off the planned course, the Belgian government could have the vessel continuously tracked without the crew having to do anything, he said.

“We are not completely there yet operationally but we want to improve the response,” Mr Van Rompuy said.

The maritime community is also working with the military on contingency plans so they know who is going to do what in the event of an attack.”

Click on the image below to see a detailed map showing the locations of hijackings in the area off the coast of Somalia from 2005 up to the end of 2007

UNOSAT Map showing details of pirate attacks off the Somali coast

UNOSAT released the map above, showing pirate activity off the coast of Somalia during the period 2005 to 2007.

The piracy problem off the coast of Somali can only be solved by the combined efforts of maritime nations; strong, forceful, effective and uncompromising action is long overdue to eliminate the Somali pirates, this must be done with or without the support of the Somali authorities.

Ransoms should not be paid, since this will further encourage the Somali pirates to hijack more vessels


Bella detesta matribus

Wars, the horror of mothers


Possunt quia posse videntur

They can because they think they can


Vi et armis

By force and arms

No comments: