From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Wed Apr 08 2009 - 08:29:03 EDT
Somali pirates hijack U.S.-flagged container ship
Wed Apr 8, 2009 12:04pm GMT
* American crew members believed to be safe
* Attackers struck 500 km (300 miles) off Somalia
* Moller-Maersk says its ship probably hijacked
(Adds details, Puntland minister)
By Daniel Wallis
NAIROBI, April 8 (Reuters) - Somali pirates hijacked a U.S.-flagged,
Danish-owned container ship on Wednesday with 20 American crew on board in
the latest of a sharp rise in attacks off the Horn of Africa nation,
Andrew Mwangura, coordinator of the Mombasa-based East African Seafarers'
Assistance Programme, told Reuters the 17,000 tonne Maersk Alabama had been
seized off Mogadishu far out in the Indian Ocean, but all its crew were
believed to be safe.
Denmark's A.P. Moller-Maersk (MAERSKb.CO:
<http://af.reuters.com/stocks/quote?symbol=MAERSKb.CO> Quote) confirmed that
the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama had been attacked by pirates about 500 km
(300 miles) off Somalia and had probably been hijacked. The company said it
had 20 American crew on board.
The Maersk Alabama is owned and operated by Maersk Line Ltd, a Norfolk,
Virginia-based subsidiary of A.P. Moller-Maersk and the world's biggest
A Moller-Maersk spokesman said it had been carrying general goods to Mombasa
from Djibouti when it was attacked.
A U.S. naval spokeswoman in Bahrain, Lt. Stephanie Murdock, said a
U.S.-flagged, Danish-owned ship reported being attacked by pirates early on
Wednesday about 280 miles (440 km) southeast of Eyl, Somalia.
In the latest wave of pirate attacks, gunmen from Somalia seized a
British-owned ship on Monday after hijacking another three vessels over the
In the first three months of 2009 just eight ships were hijacked in the busy
Gulf of Aden, which links Europe to Asia and the eastern Indian Ocean
through the Suez Canal.
Last year, heavily armed Somali pirates hijacked dozens of vessels, took
hundreds of sailors hostage -- often for weeks -- and extracted millions of
dollars in ransoms.
Foreign navies rushed warships to the area in response and reduced the
number of successful attacks. But there are still near-daily attempts and
the pirates have also started hunting further afield near the Seychelles.
On Monday, they hijacked a British-owned, Italian-operated ship with 16
Bulgarian crew on board.
Over the weekend, they also seized a French yacht, a Yemeni tug and a
20,000-tonne German container vessel. Interfax news agency said the Hansa
Stavanger had a German captain, three Russians, two Ukrainians and 14
Filipinos on board.
The pirates typically launch speed boats from "mother ships", meaning they
can sometimes evade warships patrolling the strategic shipping lanes and
strike far out to sea.
They then take captured vessels to remote coastal village bases in Somalia,
where they have usually treated their hostages well in anticipation of a
sizeable ransom payment.
Pirates stunned the shipping industry last year when they seized a Saudi
supertanker loaded with $100 million worth of crude oil. The Sirius Star and
its 25 crew members were freed in January after $3 million was parachuted
onto its deck.
Last September, they seized a Ukrainian cargo ship carrying 33 Soviet-era
T-72 tanks and other heavy weapons. It was released in February, reportedly
for a $3.2 million ransom.
Many of the pirates are based in northern Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland
region, where the authorities called on Wednesday for more funds to tackle
the gangs onshore.
"It's better for the international community to give us $1 million to clear
out the pirates on the ground, instead of paying millions of dollars to keep
the warships at sea," Puntland's security minister, Abdullahi Said Samatar,
C Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved
----[This List to be used for Eritrea Related News Only]----